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Porter Goss Selected as CIA Head; Improvements in Pakistan, Afghanistan Leading to al Qaeda Arrests; U.S., Iraqi Troops Clash with Shiite Militia in Najaf

Aired August 10, 2004 - 12:00   ET


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Porter Goss is a leader with strong experience in intelligence and the fight against terrorism. He knows his CIA inside and out. He's the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation's history.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: President Bush has turned to a company man to reform the CIA and to lead that agency.

Congressman Porter Goss has inside knowledge of the agency's inner workings. As we reported, he's a former intelligence case officer, and he currently serves as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Confirmation hearings have yet to be scheduled.

CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux has been following all of these developments. She's on the campaign trail with the president now in Goss's home state of Florida. She's joining us live from Pensacola -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Goss first found out last night when the two of them, the president and Goss, shared a dinner at the White House.

This is a logical choice for the Bush administration, as you had mentioned before, because of his qualifications as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, more than a dozen years of experience in the CIA, also a very big Bush supporter.

Now this is someone who essentially has characterized himself and portrayed himself as a reformer, as someone who will possibly make change. Famously, he angered the former CIA chief, George Tenet, when he testified before Congress, saying that the CIA is heading over a proverbial cliff after years of mismanagement and neglect.

Earlier today a White House spokesman says that he believes that Goss has the broad bipartisan respect that is needed for Senate confirmation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: His experience on Capitol Hill will serve him well at the CIA, because he's respected on both sides of the aisle, and because he understands the important role Congress must play in the effort to improve our nation's intelligence capabilities.


MALVEAUX: But Goss is also considered part of the problem for many people. They point to his experience, saying that he was the point person, the one that was responsible for the intelligence, strict monitoring of the intelligence prior to 9/11; that there have been many occasions that Goss has come forward defending the CIA on faulty intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction inside of Iraq.

There are many Democrats who have come forward to the opposition very swift and saying two things, two points here: that he is too close to the intelligence community, he is too partisan to effectively handle this job -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, where if at all, does this play in terms of the president's announcement last week? He supports the creation of a new job, a national intelligence director, a so-called czar who would oversee all intelligence, including oversee the director of the CIA.

Would Porter Goss stay at the CIA, or are we to assume he might move up to that newer job if, in fact, it gets off the ground and is set into law by the Congress?

MALVEAUX: There's no assumption that he's going to move up to that post. Essentially, the job of the CIA director will be the day- to-day operations of the CIA.

For that national post they are still debating whether or not he would have full budget authority, whether or not this individual would be able to coordinate all of those 15 intelligence agencies.

But one thing the administration wants to make very clear is those are two separate positions. But while they're still debating what that national position looks like, it is intended that they're at least going to enhance the CIA director's position in the meantime -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, traveling with the president in Pensacola, Florida, right now, a key battleground state. Suzanne, thanks very much.

As the president takes steps to reform intelligence gathering, the U.S. Congress today is moving ahead on a similar track. Members are also reacting to the Goss nomination to head the CIA.

CNN congressional correspondent, Ed Henry, is joining us from Capitol Hill.

Ed, first of all, give us some of the reaction to this announcement by the president today. ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Wolf.

Some Republicans, most Republicans, in fact, and even some Democrats are applauding this move by the president.

Democratic Senator Bob Graham from Goss' home state of Florida, as a presidential candidate was very critical of the president's handling of national security. But today he's saying this is a smart pick, and he's also saying that at a time of heightened terror alerts, it's very wise to have a permanent director of the CIA rather than the acting director, John McLaughlin, we have right now.

I also want to point out that, as you heard from Suzanne, the president is -- is stressing that Goss' background as a former CIA official and as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has given him the background, the stature to go in and shake the place up.

But a lot of Democrats are hinting that they wonder whether he's independent enough to really enact the kind of difficult reform that will have to been enacted over the next several months and the next several years.

In fact, Senator Carl Levin, who's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said earlier in a statement that he believes that the massive intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq were mostly due to the fact that the CIA was trying to please the Bush administration.

He was raising questions about Mr. Goss' independence and just saying while he is not going to necessarily oppose Mr. Goss, Levin is pointing out that he wants to assess Mr. Goss' independence before he decides on this nomination.

Very similar words from Senator Jay Rockefeller, a very important voice on this, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Rockefeller saying he's disappointed by this pick, because he believes that a politician should not be leading this agency, especially at this critical time.

But Senator Rockefeller reserving judgment, saying he's not necessarily going to oppose it. He wants to have a fair hearing for Mr. Goss.

But it's interesting to note that last month when Mr. Goss' name first surfaced as a potential CIA pick, Mr. Rockefeller noted that infamous incident involving George Tenet where he told Mr. Bush that it was going to be a slam dunk, that there were WMD in Iraq.

And in fact, Mr. Rockefeller said that the CIA chief needs to be able to tell his -- the president, any president of either party, "It is not a slam dunk; you're wrong," and needs to be able to tell that to the president.

So that will play out as well.

One final note you mentioned: there are 9/11 commission hearings today. The House Armed Services Committee is hearing testimony from Tom Kean, Lee Hamilton, the 9/11 commission co-chairs. Also another hearing tomorrow in Mr. Goss' House Intelligence Committee.

And the bottom line here is that Democrats have been very critical of the White House and Republicans on the Hill, including Mr. Goss, saying they're not moving fast enough on these 9/11 reforms -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is there any indication yet -- and it's very early; it's only a few hours since the announcement was made at 8:30 a.m. Eastern here in Washington -- when the Senate Intelligence Committee will start hearings? Confirmation hearings?

HENRY: I can tell you I received word earlier today from the intelligence chairman, Pat Roberts, his staff -- he's a Republican of Kansas, as you know. And he was pointing out that he was heading into the office today, earlier today, and was going to start assessing, even though Congress is in recess, whether or not he can get the ball rolling, at least at the staff level, get the ball rolling, maybe even have hearings in the summer, or at least in the beginning of September.

Clearly, given these heightened terror alerts, Wolf, both sides, both political parties want to make sure that whether they support or oppose a nomination that there's a fair hearing and that it moves forward quickly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Ed Henry, reporting for us from Capitol Hill.

Pat Roberts, by the way, will be among my guests today on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." That's at 5 p.m. Eastern. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee will join me live here in Washington.

Let's move on. CNN's White House correspondent John King is traveling with John Kerry's campaign. He's in Las Vegas right now, joining us on the phone.

John, I understand you're get something reaction to the campaign to the Porter Goss nomination?


Senator Kerry will issue a written statement, we are told, probably within the next hour, even a little bit sooner than that. But a senior campaign aide describes it to us.

It's a statement that does not focus so much on whether Senator Kerry, who, of course, will have to vote on this nomination, will support Porter Goss as the new director of the CIA, but instead focuses on the bigger picture.

The Kerry campaign say that if you want real reforms in the intelligence gathering of this country and in the intelligence community, the issue is not just personnel at the CIA; it is, they say, this debate over whether to have a new national intelligence director.

President Bush supports that new national intelligence director, as does his Democratic opponent, Senator Kerry. The big difference is President Bush does not want that position in the White House. He says that would not give it the independence he thinks it needs. Senator Kerry will say in his statement that he believes that position needs to be cabinet level and needs to be in the White House.

So Senator Kerry will focus on the big picture difference with the president.

But of course, Wolf, both Senator Kerry and his running mate, Senator John Edwards, have been very critical of the intelligence gathering when it comes to the war in Iraq. And both as members of the Senate would have to go back to Washington from the campaign trail to vote on this nomination if, as Ed Henry just noted, the intelligence committee puts it on a fast track.

BLITZER: And I assume, John, the White House did a lot of vetting and not only of Porter Goss, the congressman, but of the mood up on the Hill to see if someone was going to try to filibuster, how angry, how opposed some Democrats might be.

I don't think that they necessarily would go into nominating him if they didn't think they had the votes to get the job done. What do you hear about the political prospects of getting confirmation?

KING: Wolf, I know from administration sources that one of the reasons this did not happen a few weeks ago when Porter Goss first surfaced is that they were a bit worried about the initial Democratic reaction on Capitol Hill.

Speaker Hastert's office on the House side and Senator Frist's office on the Senate side said they were picking up some opposition from the Democrats, and they thought it could get quite feisty.

Obviously, there will be a big debate over the intelligence system, period, regardless of Porter Goss, and what happened when it comes to Iraq. But the White House spent a bit more time.

And one thing -- one of the things they're very happy about today is the statement by Senator Bob Graham of Florida, a Democrat, a key Kerry supporter, former chairman of the intelligence committee, a close friend, of course, from Porter Goss' home state, who is enthusiast about this pick.

So the administration is expecting some Democratic uproar, if you will, and some Democratic opposition, saying Porter Goss is not the right man for this challenge at this time. But he believes now that it has taken it up at the pulse (ph) on Capitol Hill, that yes, there will be some pretty partisan politics, but they will ultimately get this done and get it done quite quickly.

BLITZER: One final question, John, before I let you go. Well, what does this is say? I assume this says this is sort of a vote of no confidence in John McLaughlin, the acting CIA director. KING: White House officials say that the president is very high on John McLaughlin, but that in this intense political environment, because of the debate over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, because of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, because of the -- sort of the dual track they are on in finding a new CIA director and moving ahead with this new position of national intelligence, that they believed they needed to shake things up.

They needed to go with new names and what they believe to be bigger names, if you will, with more stature, at least in political Washington. They say this is not a criticism of John McLaughlin, just a reflection of this very intense political environment.

BLITZER: All right. John King, traveling with the Kerry campaign in Las Vegas. We'll be checking back with him, clearly, throughout the day. John, thanks very much.

There's word today al Qaeda may have had Las Vegas on its radar screen as far back as 1997. The Associated Press is reporting two videotapes obtained by the U.S. Justice Department in 2002 show European operatives for al Qaeda casing Las Vegas casinos, back in '97.

Meanwhile, computer files seized in Pakistan last month are reportedly providing investigators with a treasure drove of information about al Qaeda and its deadly ambitions.

Our terror analyst Peter Bergen has just returned from a visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan. He's joining us now live.

Peter, thanks very much for joining us.

First of all, your bottom-line impression: what you saw, what you learned in Pakistan in terms of the cooperation between the U.S. and the government of President Pervez Musharraf.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Musharraf has survived two very serious assassination attempts in December and also the prime minister-designate of Pakistan just 10 days ago also survived an assassination attempt.

I think the top echelon of the Pakistan government is in an existential fight against al Qaeda itself at this point. They've identified al Qaeda as being behind these assassination attempts.

But it gets a little messier when you look at who is involved in these assassination attempts against Musharraf, the president. Up to nine members, lower level members of the military were involved in the actual planning of the assassination attempt.

So I think -- I think that's emblematic of the problem that Pakistan has, which is the highest level the government wants to go after al Qaeda. There may be sympathizers lower down.

BLITZER: Because there's been widespread speculation over many years, as you well know, that the Pakistan intelligence service, the military, they're full of al Qaeda, at least sympathizers there.

BERGEN: Musharraf has actually purged the ISI, which is the military intelligence agency, with sort of some of the more maybe sympathetic to the Islamists or al Qaeda actually being let go, resigned or whatever.

And I think these arrests in the last ten days, two weeks sort of speak for themselves. You've had the arrest of Khan, this computer expert, Ghailani, who was one of the leaders of the U.S. embassy attacks in Africa in '98.

And as a result of those arrests we're seeing a lot of arrests in Pakistan, also arrests in Britain. These are the most significant arrests in Pakistan since March of 2003.

BLITZER: On that arrest of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, supposedly he was cooperating after being picked up by Pakistani authorities. He was working with them, sending e-mails, getting others, perhaps leading the trail down to the arrest of others.

But there was anger in Pakistan when his name surfaced in "The New York Times" here in the United States, and they were blaming U.S. authorities for leaking his name and thereby undermining what could be -- could have been a more successful sting operation.

BERGEN: Yes. It seems unfortunate. It appears that U.S. officials leaked his name to "The New York Times" at -- in the middle of a sting operation.

Clearly, that sting operation does -- has had some successes, because as a result of Khan's arrest, the computer guy we're now seeing on the screen, that led to Ghailani, who was the U.S. embassy guy in Africa. It's also led to the leader of al Qaeda in Britain being arrested.

But I think one of the most worrisome things, it appears that Khan was in communication with people inside the United States, recently, contemporaneously. Was it part of the sting operation? Perhaps. Or was it something else? I don't know.

But the fact is, is that this guy in Pakistan, who is a pretty -- seemed to be running the communications was in contact with people inside the United States in the recent past, not three or four years ago.

BLITZER: And you went to Afghanistan, as well.


BLITZER: And there's a lot of suggestion over the past year or two that -- that Afghanistan, with the exception of an area around Kabul, is still a mess, an enormous mess, and that the central government of Hamid Karzai really doesn't have authority much beyond the presidential palace.

BERGEN: Yes, I mean, that's the conventional wisdom. You know, I traveled around in a cab all around the country from Kandahar to Kabul and from Kabul to the Pakistan border by myself, you know, without any security and it was fine. Obviously, that's just my experience. But yes...

BLITZER: Pretty reckless, isn't it?

BERGEN: No, no.

BLITZER: Isn't it pretty dangerous for you, a westerner, to be driving around Afghanistan, knowing that there are Taliban, al Qaeda operatives roaming around there, all by yourself?

BERGEN: No. I think it's really very specific areas. I mean, they're in -- in particular parts of central Afghanistan; or particular parts of east, southeastern Afghanistan, it might be problematic. But otherwise, the country is pretty safe.

BLITZER: Because we're worried about you. We want to make sure you in back safe and sound.

BERGEN: Yes. Well, the other thing, I think, there are a lot of very positive things, I think, going on in Afghanistan.

If you -- Recent polls of Afghans, 82 percent said things are better than they were two years ago. Now clearly, it was a low bar, but things are getting better, they think.

Very large numbers of people are registering for this election coming up on October 9, surprisingly large numbers. In Kandahar, the Taliban home region, 60 percent of the population, based on the last available sentence.

BLITZER: So you see positive developments in Afghanistan?


BLITZER: Based on earlier visits.


BLITZER: You see positive developments in terms of President Musharraf and the government...


BLITZER: ... in Pakistan, based on their own survival, their concern about surviving not only as a government, but physically, their own physical survival. Which raises the question, how much closer is anyone to capturing Osama bin Laden?

BERGEN: Nowhere -- Nowhere near.


BERGEN: Because this guy is pretty disciplined, and his operational security, he hasn't been on satellite phones, cell phones, radios for a long time. So you can't...

BLITZER: He's a very tall guy. He's 6'3" or 6'4". And in that part of the world, that's considered very, very tall. He's got health problems. There was some suggestion he needs dialysis regularly.

Why is it so hard for the Afghan government, the Pakistani government, the United States, other coalition forces, NATO troops are involved all over the place? Why is it so hard to find them?

BERGEN: You know, the -- Eichmann -- the Israelis really wanted to find Eichmann...

BLITZER: Adolf Eichmann.

BERGEN: Yes. The guy who was the -- the guy with sort of the logistics of the system of the Holocaust and it took them until 1960 to find him.

So you know, I think that it's hard to find one person, particularly in that part of the world.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by for a moment, because I want to come back to this subject. I want to go to Pensacola, Florida, though, first, the president speaking on the war on terror right now. Let's listen in.

BUSH: ... a full accounting of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs or face serious consequences.

After 12 years of defiance he again refused to comply. He deceived the weapons inspectors. So I had a choice to make: either forget the lessons of September 11 and take the word of a madman who hated America or defend this country. Given that choice, I will defend America!

Even though we did not find the stockpiles that we expected to find, removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right thing to do.

Saddam Hussein had the capability to make weapons of mass destruction, and he could have passed that capability on to terrorist enemies. After September the 11th, that was a chance we could not afford to take, and America and the world are safer because Saddam Hussein sits in a prison cell.

And now -- and now, almost two years after he voted for the war in Iraq and almost 220 days after switching positions to declare himself the anti-war candidate, my opponent has found a new nuance. He now agrees it was the right decision to go into Iraq.

After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, Senator Kerry now agrees with me that, even though we have not found the stockpile of weapons, we all believed were there, knowing everything we know today he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power. I want to thank Senator Kerry for clearing that up. BLITZER: The president of the United States on the campaign trail in Pensacola, Florida, a key battleground state. Florida, decisive, clearly, in the 2000 election. It could be decisive this time, as well.

The senator (sic) referring to his Democratic opponent, this time by name, calling him Senator Kerry. Normally he refers to him as "my opponent." And expressing gratitude to Senator Kerry for coming out yesterday and saying that, if he had to vote once again on that congressional authorization bill to give the president the authority to go into Iraq if necessary, he says he would have voted the same way.

Continuing fallout, political fallout on all of this. We'll have much more on this coming up. We'll stand by to get Senator Kerry's reaction. Normally, when the president makes a statement his Democratic opponent will follow up relatively quickly.

Peter Bergen is with us. When you've just come back from the region, you see what's happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan in this war on terror with so much of U.S. security relies on what's happening in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

And you see this political debate unfolding in the United States, Peter. What did goes through your mind?

BERGEN: Well, I think what's going on in Pakistan is absolutely critical, because to the extent that al Qaeda has a base, we're seeing all these important leaders being arrested in Pakistan. And, you know, it's widely believed that Osama himself, bin Laden, is in Pakistan.

So what happens in Pakistan is critical.

You know, Sandy Berger, Clinton's national security advisor, said a clever thing once, which is the real twin towers are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. These are the critical sort of battlegrounds for al Qaeda. And what happens in both of these countries is critical for the future of al Qaeda and also very important for us. After all, Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: And I want to wrap it up. But I think it's fair to say that the positive developments, you witnessed, I witnessed in Pakistan in recent days, I think, are parallel of some of the positive developments that have happened in Saudi Arabia in recent months, also in terms of the royal family there seeing their own physical and political survival is on the line.

BERGEN: Absolutely. I mean, once you know that you're in the gun sights, as well, obviously that changes the whole picture.

BLITZER: All right. We'll continue to talk about all of this. Peter, thanks very much. And next time make sure you have some good protection. Don't go roaming around by taxis around Afghanistan. You're going to make us too nervous. Peter Bergen, thanks very much. Fighting until the end. Forces loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are battling U.S. Marines again in Najaf. We're live on the story. That's coming up next.

Also, not enough: that's the feeling in Sudan this afternoon as aid arrives, but not necessarily in the form needed for thousands, tens of thousands, maybe hundred of thousands in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Our Christiane Amanpour is on the scene.


BLITZER: Let's go to Iraq now, where for the sixth straight day, U.S. and Iraqi troops are clashing with Shiite militia fighters in the holy city of Najaf.

CNN's John Vause is joining us now, live from Baghdad, with an update.

John, what's the latest?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here in Baghdad where there's a real sense of tension not seen for some time in the Iraqi capital. Some sort of expectation of a major clash between U.S. and Iraqi forces and that militia loyal to the Shiite cleric Moqtada al- Sadr.

There's a couple of reasons for this. A spokesperson for Moqtada al-Sadr has warned residents of Baghdad to stay indoors, not to go out. And in Sadr City, a stronghold for Moqtada al-Sadr, there was a call on the mosque, what they described a crisis call, a call for the residents there to take up arms.

It has been relatively quiet there over the last few hours. There was a curfew in place overnight. That did little effect to stop the sporadic fighting.

U.S. authorities here describe it as much more concentrated in the last 24 hours compared to the last couple of days. And this U.S. source says that the fighting in Sadr City in Baghdad is directly linked to what is going to right now in Najaf, where members of the Mehdi Army, that militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, has dug in in the Imam Ali Mosque and also the cemetery area there.

Now that is now -- the mosque and the cemetery is now surrounded by U.S. forces. And the government of Najaf has given U.S. troops permission to go into the compound of the mosque, into the mosque itself and clear out members of Moqtada al-Sadr's militia.

The U.S. says right now it has no plans to go in. It is simply surrounding the area, hoping to cut off supply lines. And while it's a relative quiet in Najaf, still sporadic fighting, but certainly quiet compared to the last few days, U.S. troops are now warning residents close to the fighting to evacuate.

Announcements are being made in Arabic that residents should leave for their own safety. They are also making announcements to the militia inside the mosque, saying they should leave peacefully or they will, quote, "face death."

Now a statement put out on behalf of Moqtada al-Sadr is calling on Islamic organizations to rise up to join the fight in Najaf and to defend the Imam Ali Mosque, the most sacred site for Shiite Muslims in all of Islam -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Did you say, John, that U.S. troops now have the authority to go into some of the holy places in Najaf, because, presumably for political reasons, religious reasons, wouldn't it make more sense for allied Iraqi forces to go into those areas, Muslim fighters, as opposed to Christians from the West?

VAUSE: Absolutely, Wolf, and this is one of the reason why we believe we are seeing the U.S. troops hold back, why they're not going in.

A lot of speculation now that the U.S. troops will not go in, but rather they may make an advance attack on the mosque, possibly clearing the way for Iraqi police, Iraqi National Guard to then go into the mosque.

So there are Muslims inside the mosque, Iraqis against Iraqis. It will not be U.S. troops against Iraqi insurgents inside the mosque.

It is very explosive, politically explosive for U.S. forces and for the U.S. here if they are seen to go in there. So there's speculation that they could hold back and allow the work to be done by Iraqi forces.

BLITZER: All right, John Vause reporting on an extremely sensitive and important story for us, what's happening in Najaf right now. Thanks, John, very much. John Vause in Baghdad.

Let's get some analysis now on what's going on. We're joined by Robin Wright of the "Washington Post."

Robin, thanks very much for joining us. First of all, your overview of how significant what's happening in Najaf is right now.

ROBIN WRIGHT, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, it's really critical. You have a new government in power only for six weeks, and it faces this real military challenge.

And it's important that the new interim government manage somehow to exert its control over most of the countryside, because it also has that real trouble spot in the Sunni Triangle around Fallujah and Ramadi.

This also comes at a time that the government is trying to pull off the first political test this weekend, with the convening of a national conference that will elect a kind of quasi parliament or Congress that will be an advisory body for this new government.

This is a test of whether all of the participants from the various ethnic and religious groups in Iraq will participate in this new system. So the new government really faces this incredible challenge this week, both militarily and politically.

BLITZER: When Moqtada al-Sadr, the young radical Shiite cleric who's leading this opposition in Najaf, as well as other places, says he's ready to fight to the death, does he mean that literally or is it just rhetoric?

WRIGHT: Well, I suspect a little bit of both. He's willing to put people's lives on the line. I'm not sure that he himself is willing to fight. He has managed to flee whenever there's been a significant security challenge right around him.

But the interesting thing is he was almost marginalized earlier this year and clearly the intent to try to prevent him from drawing a lot of young, angry, Shiite kids to his cause and creating a long-term challenge. And that's why I think you're seeing such an extraordinary use of force against them right now.

BLITZER: You wrote a very important book on militant Islam that many of our viewers probably either have read or know about. And in that book you refer to the notion of martyrdom among some of these Shiite terrorists, who are ready to die, obviously, for their cause because they think it's so important.

How important of a pillar among the Shia is this notion of martyrdom?

WRIGHT: Well, it's very important when you believe that you are fighting injustice. What makes this so interesting in Iraq today is that the government is headed, the prime minister is a Shiite Muslim, that the Shiites, because they are the majority in Iraq, actually make up the majority of the participants in this interim government.

And so it's -- there's not -- it's not as if the Shiites are fighting, you know, external forces or Sunni Muslims or Christians. This is something that is largely internal.

It's -- Moqtada al-Sadr at end of the day is really challenging the authority of the new government.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about another couple of Shiites, but on a very, very different level of all of this, the Chalabis, Ahmed Chalabi and Salem Chalabi.

It's an amazing development when you think about it. They both are now being charged for various crimes: counterfeiting on the part of Ahmed Chalabi and complicity in murder on the part of Salem Chalabi, the American-educated person who was in charge of the war crimes tribunal system in Iraq.

What do you make of this very, very surprising development?

WRIGHT: Well, Ahmed Chalabi has a long and checkered record.

He was tried in absentia in Jordan more than a decade ago for embezzlement and fraud and was sentenced to 22 years hard labor and a fine of over $100 million.

There are, you know, there have been a lot of questions about Chalabi in the past and I think this is one that the case will be a very interesting one to examine whether the government really has the evidence against him this time.

Because this in the end could marginalize the figure who at one point the United States believed would succeed Saddam Hussein as the leader of Iraq.

The case of Sam Chalabi, as he's known in the United States where he was educated, is a little bit more difficult to understand. This is a man who was not like his flamboyant uncle and not engaged in some of the questionable practices he's alleged to have been involved with.

Sam Chalabi is also a critical player right now, as you pointed out, because he's headed this tribunal that will try Saddam Hussein. And his removal because of these charges against him would put that process in some doubt, at least short term.

BLITZER: He's a graduate of Yale University and the Northwestern University Law School, highly-educated here in the United States, Salem Chalabi, or as she was known here in the United States, Sam Chalabi.

Robin Wright, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

WRIGHT: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's move on. Sudan, aid is trickling in to some of the estimated two million people in western Sudan in urgent need of assistance, but in some areas they've yet to receive the help they need most.

Our Christiane Amanpour is in western Sudan. She's joining us now live.

Christiane, how grim is the situation where you are?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really grim, Wolf and despite visits by the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, and Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary-general, the aid pipeline has basically not opened up to the extent that it needs to.

There are two million people who the U.N. estimate are entirely dependent on international aid, and even though there is pressure mounting on the Sudanese government, it has to be, according to observers here and also observers in the humanitarian and NGO world, it has to be real pressure, not just rhetorical pressure.

We were at an emergency feeding center not far from where I'm standing right now this morning, and the scenes were there were really appalling, just tragic.

According to the medical relief groups here, something 20 to 25 to 30 percent of the children in this part of Darfur are malnourished. That's a huge number. It's upwards of one in five children, and that's a very, very big number.

It means that they're not getting the aid they need. Time is running out. The rainy season is upon us. And they're not getting the food aid and only just getting some shelter.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): This is the first delivery of aid to the Riyadh camp in western Darfur. It's not the desperately needed food, but it is plastic sheeting, blankets and jerry cans.

ADEEL JAFFERI, ISLAMIC RELIEF: They were all saying the same thing: we want food and we want shelter. When the rains come, it's a nightmare. I've been here when the rains have started, and it's like sheets of glass hitting your face.

AMANPOUR: Sara Saneen (ph) and one of her five children take this treasure back to their hut made of twigs.

The sheeting will be some protection against the rains, but what they need most is food. Sara, who is expecting her sixth child soon, hasn't even seen milk in five months.

These elderly women tell us they're hungry, and no one in this camp has received any food aid since they arrived.

There is meat at the camp's rancid little markets. Fly-infested cuts await those who did manage to earn some money doing odd jobs in the nearby town.

As Darfur hovers between starvation and survival, there is another fear, too: safety.

As she lashes her plastic sheeting to the roof, Sara tells us that she's still afraid of the Janjaweed militias, who burned down her home and killed 51 villagers earlier this year.

She tells us that some of the Janjaweed are now among the police and the army who are here guarding the camp.

The Sudanese government, which has deployed forces to guard this camp denies that, although aid workers say there is a militia base not far from here.

Caught between fear, hunger and disease, these people wonder just how they're going to survive.


AMANPOUR: And another issue of great concern is the -- we're getting reports of forced returns, or the attempt to forcibly move some of these internally displaced people back to their villages.

Now this is something that the international community and certainly the U.N. doesn't want to see. It's not allowed under the law to forcibly return people to areas that are either insecure or that they can't live in. And these villages, many of them have been burned down. The livestock has been stolen over the last 18 months or so.

And the Sudanese government is now under pressure and the international spotlight to try to create safe havens. And that's now -- they've got about till the end of this month to make good on their efforts to disarm and to open areas for humanitarian security -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour, reporting for us from Darfur from the Sudan. Christiane, we'll be checking back with you throughout today and clearly, throughout the coming days. Christiane Amanpour in Sudan.

Up next, more on President Bush's nomination of Congressman Porter Goss to head the CIA. We'll get reaction from Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss. He's a member of the intelligence committee. And former assistance secretary of state Wendy Sherman. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Just a few hours ago President Bush named Republican Congressman Porter Goss of Florida his choice to lead the CIA. Already, though, some leading Democrats are expressing some serious reservations.

Joining us now to talk about that, two guests. Senator Saxby Chambliss is a Republican from Georgia. He's a key member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will have to confirm this nominee. He's in Atlanta today.

And here in Washington, Wendy Sherman is a principal over at the Albright group. That would be the Madeleine Albright group. She's a former assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration and a John Kerry supporter.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Senator Chambliss, first of all, we just got a statement from the chairman of your committee, Senator Roberts, saying that he welcomes -- warmly welcomes this nominee.

He says, "I'm hopeful the Senate Intelligence Committee can quickly move this confirmation in a bipartisan manner."

When do you think this will be confirmation hearings at the earliest?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Well, I'm sure the wheels are turning right now, Wolf. I don't now exactly whether it will be once we get back in September or whether something will try to be put in motion before we're called back after Labor Day.

But this needs to be done in a hurry for the right reasons, and I think certainly Porter is the right person. Pat is correct in that we need to move in a bipartisan way, and I'm confident that that will be done. Porter is a guy I've had the privilege of working with for ten years now, and the last four years, very closely in the intelligence community.

He has a vast amount of intelligence that he brings to the table. Probably the most significant part of his background is the fact that he knows the key players in the intelligence community around the world. He dialogues with them on a regular basis, and I've had the opportunity to sit in on some of those dialogues.

So I know the respect that the intelligence community worldwide has for Porter Goss. And I hope we can put this above politics, and let's move forward with it.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get Wendy Sherman's reaction.

Porter Goss for many, many years has been widely respected on Capitol Hill, someone working very closely with Jane Harman, the vice chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

What's wrong, if anything, with this nomination?

WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: I think that Porter Goss is a fine guy. He's worked hard on the House Intelligence Committee.

But you know, this is a very critical time where there's a lot of partisanship. We're trying to move quickly on the 9/11 Commission recommendations. I hope we move as quickly on the 9/11 recommendations as we do on the nomination of Porter Goss.

And because we're in the middle of deciding what the intelligence community is going to look like, whether there's going to be a national director of intelligence, I think these hearings on his confirmation have to ask all of the questions about the 9/11 Commission recommendations and really see where the Bush administration is and where it's willing to go. It's no longer about just one appointment, one confirmation process.

BLITZER: Senator Chambliss, there have been some statements over the past month or so since Porter Goss' name was floated and our own national security correspondent, David Ensor, first reported about a month ago on my show that he was the top choice to be the CIA director.

Some members of your own panel, some Democrats including Jay Rockefeller, among others, wondered if a political appointee was the best -- the best option right now.

What do you say to those concerns that we've heard?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I say that everything in Washington right now is political. It's just hard to get away from it here. Less than 90 days out from an -- from the election day. So it's -- politics is going to play a very integral part. But let me just comment on what Wendy said. I agree with her. The 9/11 Commission report should be an integral part of process. And the president's already made plain that he wants to move forward with a number of those recommendations.

And she's exactly right that they've got to be considered in this. And it may be by executive order. It may require legislation to do some things, but we're going to be moving forward with implementing those recommendations.

I happen to favor the creation of the DNI position. We're operating under a 1947 act right now that really only has one position, where you have a director of intelligence, and that's what Porter Goss has been nominated for.

As we move through this process of the 9/11 and the confirmation of the DCI, then all of that will have to come into the mix and should be laid on the table.

BLITZER: You can make the case, Wendy Sherman, that at this critical time of heightened terror threats, especially between now and November 2, the day of the election, it's imperative to have a real director of the CIA, someone the president has total confidence in, as opposed to an acting director, as good as John McLaughlin might be.

SHERMAN: John McLaughlin is a very seasoned professional. I understand the desire to try to move forward.

But again, the president has said that he wants a director of national intelligence, but not someone with budget authority or hiring authority.

So what's the DNI going to be, as opposed to the director of the CIA? How are these two positions going to work together? Are we really going to move on the 9/11 recommendations?

Chairman Kean has said that the voters should look to see how these are implemented in making their decision on who they vote for for president.

As you know, Senator Kerry has embraced all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, has urged us to move forward, and we need to move forward.

So I think when we look at Chairman Goss, he also has been part of the congressional oversight. And although I have great respect for members of Congress, the 9/11 Commission was quite critical of the oversight.

So as part of the confirmation process, we have to look at his role in oversight and whether he really is in the right position to now go make some of the fundamental changes that are necessary.

BLITZER: Senator Chambliss, do you want to respond to Wendy Sherman's point about this new national intelligence director not having the budgetary clout, the budgetary authority in control of the cash? And money talks, as you and I well know here in Washington.

That it would just be adding another bureaucratic layer to the intelligence process without giving this new director, this intelligence czar, the authority he or she would really need?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I mean, the statements are just dead wrong there, and let's clarify that because the president has not said that he's going to appoint somebody who's simply going to be a bureaucrat. He has said that he wants to give power and influence to this individual.

I've been very outspoken about the fact that this person needs to be in the capacity of a CEO of a major corporation. He needs to have ability to hire and fire, to move people around; needs to have budgetary authority. And I think the president's going to be clear about that.

That having been said, Wolf, this is such a complex issue, because 58 percent of our budget is spent at the Department of Defense. We've got to make sure that not only the Central Intelligence Agency, not only the Department of Defense, but the entire intelligence operation comes under an umbrella that is manageable and is practicable and simply doesn't go out and create another level of bureaucracy that's going to hinder our intelligence operation.

But make no mistake about it: the president's willing to give the individual who is the new director of national intelligence a lot of power, a lot of authority, budget and otherwise.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a break and continue this; much more to talk about.

News of the day, the president has nominated Porter Goss, the Republican congressman from Florida, to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

More with our guests when we come back.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over 15 years of service, Porter Goss has built a reputation as a reformer. He'll be a reformer at the Central Intelligence Agency.

I look forward to his counsel and his judgments as to how best to implement broader intel reform, including the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.


BLITZER: The president making the announcement here in Washington over at the White House in the Rose Garden just a short while ago, a few hours ago, nominating Congressman Porter Goss to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But is he the right man for the job right now? Continuing our conversation on that, our guests, Senator Saxby Chambliss. He's a Georgia Republican. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will hold hearings on this nomination. Senator Chambliss is in Atlanta.

Here in Washington, Wendy Sherman. She's a principal at the Albright Group, a former assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration.

It's going to be hard for a lot of Democrats, who like Porter Goss to oppose this nominee, especially with Senator Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying this is a good idea.

And now Governor Tom Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, a Republican former governor of New Jersey, saying he also thinks this is a pretty good idea, especially if Porter Goss commits himself to implement the 9/11 recommendations.

SHERMAN: I think you've put your thumb right on it. What we need to hear is this nomination in the context of the 9/11 recommendations.

I hope that the Congress and the president will move as quickly on the 9/11 recommendations as he appears to want to move on this confirmation process.

You know, in the '60s, Wolf, we had a very complicated civil rights situation in this country. A terrible number of things happened, and President Lyndon Johnson moved very quickly on the Voting Rights Act in the mid-'60s.

We can move quickly on difficult and complex things when our national security is at risk. That's what needs to happen. We need to hear that from Porter Goss. Most of all, we need to hear from the president.

BLITZER: But in terms of Washington, Wendy Sherman, aren't they moving pretty quickly? The House is holding a lot of hearings. The Senate is holding a lot of hearings. They're coming back from recess in August to actually get some work done in Washington.

And the nature of things, especially in an election year, for the U.S. Congress, they're moving pretty quickly.

SHERMAN: I think the Congress is starting to move quickly.

I was very glad to hear Senator Chambliss say that he believes that the DNI ought to have hiring authority and budgetary authority. And I hope that President Bush takes his view and takes Senator John Kerry's view very soon so we can move forward on getting done what we need here.

We have all of these terror threats in front of us, more and more coming out every day. We need to really get on top of the intelligence system.

BLITZER: I wonder if you'd want to comment on that, Senator Chambliss.

CHAMBLISS: Well, I think certainly, we can all agree that this decision for the appointment of the new DCI is an administration decision. But frankly, the direction in which we move side a congressional decision, and that's where the responsibility lies.

And you're right, Wolf. We are coming back. I'm canceling everything next week to come back for some Armed Services hearing. A government relations committee has already been holding hearings. I know other committees are coming back.

We are moving in a very expeditious manner. But you know, sometimes the nature of the congressional wheels is to turn more slowly than what people would like for them to see.

I think we're moving quickly, but at the same time, we must move cautiously and expeditiously.

And I think that the president is going to come forward with some additional recommendations, maybe some presidential appointments that -- and creation of some positions that comply and go along with the recommendation of the 9/11 commission. I'm not sure what he's going to do.

But we are moving in an expeditious manner. And so far it's been bipartisan, and I just hope we can keep it at that level.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. A good discussion, Senator Chambliss, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

CHAMBLISS: Thank you.

SHERMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Wendy Sherman joining us here in Washington.

And this note: we'll be having much more on this coming up throughout the day here on CNN, including on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS," 5 p.m. Eastern, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, will be among my guests.

Also following up on the recommendations of the 9/11 investigative panel. We'll talk in the next hour with 9/11 commissioner Tim Roemer. That's coming up in the next hour here on CNN on LIVE FROM.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: I'll be back later today, every weekday, 5 p.m. Eastern for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Among my guests, once again, later today, Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. We'll get his reaction to President Bush's decision to nominate Porter Goss as the new CIA director.

Also joining me at 5 p.m., the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, a key foreign policy adviser to Senator John Kerry.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. LIVE FROM with Miles O'Brien and Betty Nguyen is up next.



BUSH: Porter Goss is a leader with strong experience in intelligence in the fight against terrorism.



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