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NEWS FROM CNN
9/11 Co-Chairs Urge Passage of Intelligence Reform; Bush Meets with Canadian Prime Minister on Trade, Security; NAACP President Resigns; More Suicide Attacks in Iraq; Scott Peterson Penalty Phase Begins Today
Aired November 30, 2004 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This hour, is America at risk? Supporters of the stalled intelligence reform bill think so. And they say time is running out. We'll hear from both sides of the debate.
Also, the president now in Canada as you saw live here on CNN. And the end of the decade-long absence of a state visit by a U.S. president. We'll tell you why he's there and about the reception he's getting.
And the man accused of hunting the hunters. He's appearing in court for the first time. Our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, will weigh in on that and the Scott Peterson trial. Other legal issues of the day.
A busy hour ahead. Some other headlines, though, first, now in the news.
The Associated Press is reporting that Kweisi Mfume will resign as president of the NAACP. The former congressman from Maryland is expected to announce his resignation momentarily. We're standing by to go to Baltimore. You're looking at a live picture, a news conference scheduled by the NAACP. We'll bring it to you live when it happens.
Hundreds of people are dead in the eastern Philippines in a series of landslides and floods. Rescue teams are rushing to the region as a second major storm approaches. More than 300 people are reportedly dead. More than 150 are missing.
In Cuba, the Castro government frees a world-renowned political dissident, the poet Raul Rivero was -- Raul Rivero was released on parole after 20 months in prison for allegedly working with Washington to undermined the communist authorities. He's the fourth Cuban dissident freed in two days amid growing international pressure.
Up first this hour, an urgent call to enact the 9/11 reforms right now. Two top figures of the 9/11 Commission are taking their case to the White House, and one of the two is warning that waiting any longer could only help terrorists.
CNN's Ed Henry is up on Capitol Hill live. He's joining us with the latest. Is there any movement today that you can discern, Ed, on coming up with some sort of break through? ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All we can see right now, Wolf, is a last ditch lobbying blitz from Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, as you mentioned, the former co-Chairs of the 9/11 Commission.
They say time is running out for the nation, that the stalled 9/11 intelligence reform bill has to be passed next week when Congress comes back into town to wrap up a lame duck session.
And as you mentioned, that high profile meeting will include Kean and Hamilton going over to meet with Vice President Cheney today. They wanted to meet with President Bush, but obviously, he's in Canada right now. Lee Hamilton telling me this morning that they are more than happy with meeting with Vice President Cheney. They want to get this bill going.
And this morning this meeting is coming at a time when this very morning, Chris Shays, a Republican House member suggested that blame for failure will go to the president if this deal does not go through.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: If we don't have a vote on September 11, it will be my feeling that the president didn't weigh in strong enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now the White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday that the president is onboard. He wants this legislation to go through and suggested the president will be sending a letter to congressional leaders later this week, reaffirming that support.
But as you know, there have been some senators involved in the negotiations who have suggested previously that the president should get more actively involved. But Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, for example, have said that they believe the president has been pushing hard for a deal.
Now, this is coming at a time when there's been a bit of a split among Republicans up here on the Hill about whether or not a deal should go through. But there's also, we should report, a divide among 9/11 families themselves about whether or not the current legislation as it's drafted is good enough.
Here's a flavor of that debate from two different 9/11 family members.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY PETCHET, 9/11 FAMILY STEERING COMMITTEE: This opposition is inexcusable. The American people must realize that the time for reform is now. The time for debate has passed. Delay and bipartisan politics have no place where America's national security is in jeopardy.
COLLETTE PUENTE, 9/11 FAMILIES FOR A SECURE AMERICA: The border policies that, for the most part, continue to exist are the border policies that helped bring about September 11 in 2001. Secure borders, controlling of visa documents, could have prevented that. Those people who got on those planes had enough contacts that it could have been prevented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: That last 9/11 family member you heard from was voicing her support for the tough immigration provisions that Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has been holding out for.
The bottom line here, though, the key to remember is that if there's no deal next week, Congress will have to start from scratch in January. They cannot pick up where they left off. They have to start all over again in January. And Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton are saying the country cannot afford to wait -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry on Capitol Hill. Thanks very much, Ed. We'll stand by and bring us any new information as it becomes available.
And a little bit later this hour, I'll speak live with two members of the U.S. Congress about the pressures to enact intelligence reform. Our guests: Congressman Steve King of Iowa and Carolyn Maloney of New York. They'll join us live. That's coming up later this hour. They have very different perspectives on this legislation.
There was a chill in the air this morning when President Bush touched down in Ottawa for the first state visit by a U.S. president to Canada in about a decade.
This is the usually friendly neighbor that has acted pretty frosty toward the Bush administration and toward Mr. Bush in particular, largely because of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is joining us now live from Ottawa with more on what's going on -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, this is a very important visit for the Bush administration. The president at this hour meeting with the prime minister of Canada, Paul Martin.
It was about an hour ago or so the president arrived here. And of course, this visit is designed to improve U.S.-Canadian relations. It is an uneasy friendship, this of course, after differences over the Iraq war, Canada opposing it and also refusing to send troops. Differences in social issues and polls that show 2/3 of Canadians really do not have a favorable opinion of President Bush.
Now the two at this hour are meeting. We expect they'll make a joint statement within the hour or so.
Some of the critical issues that both the leaders are going to be dealing with, the U.S. is going to be seeking a greater commitment when it comes to efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But Canada is looking to resolve some of these very contentious trade issues. The first dispute, of course, is over the ban on imported Canadian beef. That took place last year in May after a single case of Mad Cow was discovered. Canadians say that this, of course, has cost their industry some $4 billion.
The White House says that there is a process that's underway through the Agriculture Department to perhaps loosen those regulations. But again, a White House spokesman today saying that they are not putting a timetable on this, that the president's priority is to make sure that the U.S. food supply is safe for Americans.
The second issue, of course, is over lumber. The U.S. has issued a tariff as of two years ago on soft wood lumber from Canada, because it says that essentially the Canadian government is subsidizing it.
Well, recently the W2O -- TO, rather, found that this was illegal. The U.s. is appealing this, but again, Canadians crying foul, saying they have lost billions of dollars because of this.
And finally, Wolf, perhaps the most important issue is security for both of these nations. Now despite the fact that there were no 9/11 hijackers, essentially, that crossed the Canadian border into the United States, there is concern that if that border was to become porous, that perhaps it would become a launching pad for terrorists.
The Canadian government very much invested in showing that they can maintain control of that border, at the same time allow commerce as well as personnel to flow freely between the two countries, because these are the two largest trading partners in the world -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Suzanne Malveaux reporting for us from Ottawa, the state visit by the president of the United States to Canada. Suzanne, thanks very much.
From Ottawa let's go to Baltimore. Kweisi Mfume, former congressman, president of the NAACP, announcing he's stepping down. Let's listen in.
KWEISI MFUME, PRESIDENT OF NAACP: So I would ask, nonetheless, that you indulge me for a few moments and my redundancy for overstating what is now the obvious.
Before going further, I want to, if I might, I would like it to reacknowledge the president -- presence of the honorable Julian Bond, our distinguished and valued Chairman of the board, who I've had the privilege with for seven of my nine years here to work with. His friendship, and his leadership to both me and to our organization has been invaluable.
He is joined, as you heard a moment ago, by our vice Chair, Rosalyn Brock, by our national board members, Morris Shearin, Marge Green, Leroy Washington, and by a lot of well wishers, including our local branch president, G.I. Johnson, and so many, many, many others.
At the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, we all believe that colored people come in all colors. And for 96 years, ours has been a coalition of conscience.
I do know, however, and I am here to say to you, that after many, many hours of personal reflection and much time spent with my family, I have decided, with the understanding and the permission of our board of directors, to step down from the presidency of the oldest and largest civil rights organization in our country, the NAACP.
For the last nine years, I've had what I believe was both the honor and the privilege to help revive and to help restore this great organization, which for intents and purposes has really become an American institution. The people who I have met along the way and the lessons that I have learned have proven to be invaluable.
BLITZER: Kweisi Mfume, the president and CEO Of the NAACP. You just heard it live here, announcing he's stepping down as president of the civil rights organization. Unclear what he's going to be doing next.
CNN's Tom Foreman is in Baltimore. He's joining us live. Did you get any information about what's behind this decision, which sort of surprised me, coming as it did today, Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there have been some divisions in this organization, notably between Mr. Mfume and the Chairman of the board here, Julian Bond.
Just a month ago, when the IRS announced they were investigating some political comments made by Mr. Bond which could endanger the tax- free status of this organization, Mr. Mfume said at that time, "Well, maybe we'll give up our tax-free status."
I asked Mr. Bond about that a little later, and he very clearly said, "No, we are not considering that."
These types of frictions have grown for awhile about the political direction of this organization. Now that said, both men are trying right now to put a good face on this, to move forward the best way they can.
A lot of people talking about a potential political future for the one-time congressman, Mr. Mfume. Maybe the Senate. Maybe some other offices he might consider.
I talked to Mr. Bond as he walked in, and I said, "Are you at peace with this?"
And he said, "I'm not looking forward to it, but I am at peace with it. And it will be amicable" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kweisi Mfume stepping down as the leader of the -- president of the NAACP. Tom Foreman, thanks very much for that report.
We just got a statement in from the Reverend Jesse Jackson, praising Kweisi Mfume. I'll read a little bit of it. "I hold Kweisi Mfume as a public servant and a friend in the highest regard. He leaves the NAACP stronger than he found it. He has been a major force in protecting affirmative action, a key to access and opportunity. He led critical voter registration and empowerment drives."
That statement from Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Kweisi Mfume, 56 years old, a former U.S. congressman from Maryland -- Pennsylvania, actually. Stepping down and now will go on to the next chapter in his career.
For the United States and Iraq, this month has been one of the deadliest since the war began, and more troops came under attack earlier today.
CNN's Karl Penhaul is on duty for us. He's joining us live from Baghdad -- Karl.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf.
The deadliest attack of the day came in the northern city of Beiji. That's 100-odd miles north of Baghdad. A car bomber drove a vehicle into a U.S. combat patrol, we're told by a U.S. military spokesman. Seven civilians died in that explosion. Twenty other civilians were injured.
The area where the combat patrol was passing through was a crowded market area. The U.S. troops on board those vehicles, though, escaped uninjured. Beiji, of course, being home to one of Iraq's largest oil refineries.
The second attack of the day in Baghdad on that airport road once again. Another suicide car bomber drove a vehicle into a U.S. convoy there. We're told by U.S. military spokesman that five U.S. soldiers were wounded.
This is the third time in about four days that this airport road has been bombed by suicide car bombers. Each time that happens, the road gets closed off for debris to be cleared and investigations to get underway. Certainly, a favorite target of the insurgents these days.
All told, these casualties make it one of the worst months, the second worst month, we understand, this year. Certainly for U.S. soldiers in terms of numbers of deaths. There are a lot of those numbers that came from offensive in Falluja, back in April, too, in which there were high numbers again. Again, there were specific incidents there again at that stage in offensive on Falluja and also the trouble brewing in Najaf at that stage, Wolf.
BLITZER: A hundred and thirty-five U.S. troops have died so far in this month of November, Karl. According to the Associated Press that would be at least the same number as last April, which was the highest number, 135 troops dead. But the month is not yet over. This may turn out to be the worst month so far since the start of the war a year ago March as far as U.S. deaths in Iraq are concerned. What are U.S. military personnel and others say to you about that? Is the situation deteriorating that severely or was this because of the more than 50 troops that died in the battle for Falluja?
PENHAUL: Well, certainly the battle for Falluja had skewed those figures in the sense that almost -- or certainly, more than a third of the deaths came from the fight for Falluja. And again in April when we look at similarly high figures in April there was specific combat situations there.
But it does still mean that a lot of U.S. soldiers are still dying in these other guerrilla attacks elsewhere in the country, although the U.S. military will still say that what went on this month is part of the solution. The more they can get through combat operations like those in Falluja, the better things will come.
Certainly, though, from what we've seen, still no light yet at the end of the tunnel. But this is what the U.S. military is working towards, Wolf.
BLITZER: Karl Penhaul in Baghdad for us, thank you, Karl, very much.
From Baghdad let's come back here to Washington. Tom Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, a Republican, the Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, speaking, lobbying on behalf of the 9/11 intelligence reform legislation.
TOM KEAN, CO-CHAIR, 9/11 COMMISSION: ... the Unite States. It has the support of congressional leaders in the House and Senate. That's on both sides of the aisle. It has a support of majorities in both chambers and the support of the vast majority of the American people.
Our request to our nation's leaders today is give us a vote. Pass this bill.
The choice is between this bill and the status quo. The basic structure of the intelligence community hasn't changed since 9/11. The status quo failed us. The status quo does not provide our leaders with the information they require to keep the American people safe.
Reform is an urgent matter and reform simply must not wait until after the next attack.
This bill creates a comprehensive counter terrorism policy with scores of provisions, relating not only to intelligence but information sharing, border and transportation security, terrorist financing, reforms of the FBI, foreign policy, assistance to first responders at the local level, and very importantly, the protection of our civil liberties.
This bill enables unity of effort across 15 agencies in the intelligence community. It puts a national director in charge of budgets, personnel, and information technology. And that person can make sure that information is shared and make sure that agencies cooperate with one another. We need a person in charge who is both empowered and accountable.
The bill creates a strong national counter terrorism center and a comparable national center to counter proliferation. So there is a unity of effort across the government on these two very prominent national security concerns.
It creates centers to ensure that information is shared and that agencies act jointly. The bill goes far beyond anything that any president can do by executive order, and the bill makes reforms permanent.
It initiates landmark reforms to link intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security information so that it is available to state and local authorities.
The bill reforms border security, authorizing thousands of additional border parole agents and customs and immigration inspectors and thousands of additional bed spaces for immigration detention and for removal. It focuses attention on the analysis and sharing of information on terrorist travel and strengthens immigration laws and visa requirements.
The bill sets new strategies in transportation and in aviation security, including tighter baggage screening, explosive detection, maritime security and very importantly, the use of watch lists to screen suspected passengers.
The bill strengthens counter terrorism laws...
BLITZER: Governor Tom Kean is the Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, together with Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic member of Congress. They're both urging, together with the eight other members of the 9/11 Commission, quick passage in the coming days of the 9/11 intelligence reform legislation that has gone already through the Senate.
A different version going through the House, but getting both of those versions on the same page proving to be very difficult over several issues.
We're going to have a thorough discussion of those issues coming up later this hour. Two members of Congress with very different perspectives. Representative Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York, and Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, they'll join us live. We'll thrash out the differences and what's at stake in this legislation. That's coming up later this hour.
We're also checking other news that we're following. A very important story in Ukraine. Opposition party leaders have broken off compromise talks with the government as the country's supreme court considers thousands of allegations of voter fraud.
For a ninth consecutive day, protesters were in the streets. They're still there, demanding a revote between the western-leaning Viktor Yushchenko and the man who was declared the winner, the current prime minister and Moscow's favorite choice, Viktor Yanukovych.
At one point, some of them tried to push their way into Parliament when it appeared lawmakers were having a change of heart about overturning the election results. They'll be back in session tomorrow.
Still, an extremely volatile situation with enormous ramifications for Europe and the relationship between the west and east.
A family's worst fear appears to be true after another body is recovered from the wreckage of a plane crash in Colorado. Now investigators search for answers as to what caused the crash.
And paying the price for murder. What will Scott Peterson's penalty be for killing his wife and unborn child? We'll explore the possibilities. Jeff Toobin, our legal analyst, standing by for that.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
One correction. Kweisi Mfume, the now former president of the NAACP, has just announced his resignation. He's a former U.S. congressman from the state of Maryland, not from Pennsylvania. I misspoke just a few minutes ago.
Kweisi Mfume announcing his resignation. No successor yet named by the board. We'll continue to watch that story for you, our viewers.
In the meantime, the National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the crash of that corporate jet carrying NBC's Dick Ebersol and two of his sons, as well as others. A body believed to be that of Ebersol's 14-year-old son, Teddy, was found beneath the wreckage late yesterday. The pilot and a flight attendant were also killed in Sunday's crash at an airport in Montrose, Colorado. That's not far from Telluride.
Ebersol, an older son and the plane's co-pilot are hospitalized with injuries. The NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, is studying the cockpit voice recorder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNOLD SCOTT, NTSB LEAD INVESTIGATOR: What happened was when he taxied out he called Denver center, which is in Longmont, and got his IFR clearance to South Bend. My information is that Denver center said, "Advise us when you're ready for takeoff."
He said, "We are ready for takeoff right now." That was the last communication they had with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The plane crashed while trying to take off in light snow. A company that deices planes at that Montrose Regional Airport says the jet was not deiced before takeoff. But an airport spokesman has not yet confirmed that, wouldn't confirm it, at least not yet.
The U.S. Army has identified all seven soldiers killed in that helicopter crash in central Texas yesterday. Two high-ranking officers, Brigadier General Charles Allen and Colonel James Moore, were among the victims. All of the soldiers were based at Fort Hood in Texas.
Reports indicate the Black Hawk crashed into wires supporting a TV broadcasting tower. The FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, says it recently issued a notice alerting pilots that warning lights on that tower were not working.
In legal news, a court appearance in Wisconsin this morning for Chai Vang. He's the hunter charged with killing six other deer hunters in the woods of northern Wisconsin. A preliminary hearing is set for December 29.
Vang, an immigrant from Laos, has told investigators the other hunters used racial slurs and fired at him first.
Emotional testimony expected in the Scott Peterson trial today. The same jury that convicted him of murdering his wife and unborn son must now weigh his punishment, whether it will be life in prison or the death sentence.
Our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, is joining us now to walk through this process with us.
First of all, how long normally would this sentencing phase of the trial take -- last?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Very brief, certainly, in comparison to the trial. Four or five days. I think it could be over by the end of the week.
BLITZER: And so who goes first? The prosecution, they bring the -- they bring the witnesses first. Is that right?
TOOBIN: Right. The structure is the same as the trial. The prosecution has the burden of proof, so they go first.
And the first witnesses we're likely to see are what are the so- called victim impact witnesses, who are Laci Peterson's family. And the judge has pretty much limited that testimony to a single day, today, but it will surely be wrenching and awful testimony from her family.
BLITZER: It will be very, very difficult, I'm sure. Now then, the defense will have the chance to bring witnesses, as well. Who are they likely to bring?
TOOBIN: Well, this is where things get -- there's a little more discretion, a little -- we don't know for sure.
Certainly, there will be people who talk -- Mark Geragos will call witnesses who say that Scott Peterson was a good guy. He helped people out. He had no criminal record. He is -- he is better than the worst thing he ever did.
Now, that's a very tough argument when the worst thing he ever did is a truly horrendous act. But -- but Geragos has got to try to show the jury that this is somehow a man with some redeeming features who deserves something less than the worst penalty they can give.
BLITZER: Well, wouldn't the best way to do that would have Scott Peterson sort of appear before that jury and beg -- beg to live and say, you know, "I'm so sorry. I don't know what happened. I was basically a good guy but I just went crazy," and plead for his life?
TOOBIN: Well, the problem there is they spent five months arguing that he didn't do it. So to have a complete reversal makes them look like they're simply just trying to get out of the penalty.
Plus, you have to remember the evidence in this case. The evidence in this case had Scott Peterson lying repeatedly, as Mark Geragos, his lawyer, acknowledged. Remember those crazy phone calls to Amber Frey, where he said he was in Paris when he was just in Modesto.
Those kind of things, he could be cross-examined about. So his truthfulness is not something that the defense is going to want to try to embrace. So I think his testimony is really a long shot.
BLITZER: So there's basically, you're saying, no chance that he will testify before this jury?
TOOBIN: I would say close to no chance.
BLITZER: At the end of the day, though, does it really make a difference, practically speaking, whether the jury gives him life without the possibility of parole or the death sentence, given California's track record in actually executing or killing people who have been sentenced to death?
TOOBIN: This came up when we did the David Westerfield trial in San Diego not too long ago. California has more than 600 people on death row. California is executing people at a rate of fewer than one per year. So you do the math, it is almost certain that regardless of the sentence Scott Peterson gets, he will not be executed by the state of California. However, life in prison is a lot worse on death row than it is in the general population. So in that respect, it has some impact on his life.
BLITZER: And they will be talking about that, witnesses explaining to the jury how horrible it is to be on death row for year after year after year in arguing he shouldn't be executed.
TOOBIN: It is a tremendous amount of stress to be on death row, even if it is unlikely you're going to be executed. And the restrictions on your movement, your inability to get a job in prison, the restrictions on your visitors, are much worse on death row than they are in the general population. So even though it's unlikely that Scott Peterson will be executed under any circumstances, this hearing does have a big impact on how he's going to live rest of his life.
BLITZER: Now in the past two weeks, since his conviction on these two counts, these two murder counts, Mark Geragos has gone before higher courts to try to get some sort of reversal, but he's failed on both occasions. Tell our viewers what happened.
TOOBIN: Well, this was an extreme legal longshot. One of the things Geragos has been pressing, and he certainly will press on his appeals, is that the public, particularly in Redwood City where this trial was moved, was so full of hatred for Scott Peterson that he deserved a second change of venue, and he asked that the penalty phase be moved to a new jury in a different location. It really seemed to me almost an impossible legal request, so I wasn't surprised it was turned down, because the whole idea of penalty phases is that the same jury that heard the guilt phase-against evidence against you judges the penalty phase, so it really had no chance of success. But it's the beginning of a long legal process, and pretrial publicity and hostility on the part of jurors in the population will be a big part of that appeal.
BLITZER: And the other issue is this one juror who was dismissed at the very end. There's some suspicion that this was a juror that was a doctor and lawyer and had taken all sorts of notebooks full of testimony and was very copious in his detail. He may have been reluctant to go forward with a conviction, and there is some suggestion he may have been removed as a result of that. That would be a basis for an appeal.
TOOBIN: You bet. That's almost certainly his best chance on appeal. We don't know, because all of those hearings were held behind closed doors. Remember, there were two jurors thrown off in the course of deliberations. One of those jurors, Geragos conceded, agreed that he should be thrown off, she should be thrown off. So that is not grounds for an appeal. But this second one is certainly something an appeals court will look at carefully. But we know so little about what happened, it's hard to say whether he'll have much chance of success.
BLITZER: Briefly, let's talk about this other case that we're watching in Wisconsin, this hunter, 36-year-old Chai Vang who is now accused of murdering six other hunters. He says that there were racial epithets that were thrown at him, they fired at him first. The two surviving hunters are denying that. What do you make of this case?
TOOBIN: Well, it looks like they are trying a self-defense defense. That takes out the issue of who did the shooting. They will concede, apparently, that Mr. Vang did do the shooting.
However, shooting one person in self-defense is one thing. I think it's going to be very difficult to argue that you killed six people in self-defense, including some very young people, so it's going to be a difficult defense, but there's a long way to go.
BLITZER: And the element of his Laotian background. He's an immigrant from Laos. He's a U.S. citizen, a naturalized U.S. citizen. How does this play into this case?
TOOBIN: Well, hard to know at this point. Certainly it will be something that the defense and prosecution explore in jury selection, trying to see if potential jurors have any biases one way or another, but it's going to be probably a big factor in the background of the case. I don't know how much in front of the jury it will be. But in jury selection, it will undoubtedly be a big issue.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, joining us from New York. Jeff, thanks very much for that explanation. We'll be speaking extensively with you over the coming days.
The debate for change. Lawmakers trying to hammer out a compromise on intelligence reform. Is it possible, and if so, will it happen in the coming days? Coming up, I'll be joined live by two members of the House of Representatives. They have different perspectives. You're looking live at Carolyn Maloney and Steve King.
We'll get to them, right after this break.
BLITZER: The co-chairmen of the 9-11 Commission are stepping up the pressure on Congress to pass intelligence reform legislation right now. The issue has divided families of the 9-11 victims who held competing news conferences here in Washington earlier today.
And joining to us talk about it, two members of Congress with different perspectives. Representative Carolyn Maloney is a Democrat from New York. Represent Steve King is a Republican from Iowa.
Thanks to both of you for joining us.
Let me start with you, Congresswoman Maloney. What's at stake right now in getting this legislation approved, passed in the next few days?
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: A great deal is at stake. And fundamentally, the bottom line is making our country safer. My city was attacked, many of the victims' families I joined today in their press conference, and their message was, Mr. President, if you support this bill, at the very least, give us a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. The majority of the Senators have overwhelming passed it, the president supports it, editorial boards across this country. The time is now to pass this bill.
And incidentally, Wolf, we're coming back on December 6th, December 7th is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It would be a tragedy, and I would say dangerous, if we do not act now to pass these provisions to make us safer.
BLITZER: All right, Congressman King, do you want to respond to that?
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Well, we're three years past September 11th, and now we feel the crush of this urgency that's coming because there is a political bill that's been established because of the appointment of the 9-11 Commission. Congress has a responsibility to do due diligence, and that is weigh all of the aspects of this bill. This is almost a permanent policy change that's taken three years to get here, but Congress hasn't deliberated but just a few weeks.
And the reasons that we're doing this are two of them that have been stipulated by the 9-11 Commission. And one of them is to avoid groupthink, and the other is to establish a better sharing of intelligence. And they have yet to make the case to me, to a hundred members of Congress who are a lot of the American people that the formula that they propose here is going to actually do the things that they suggested they will.
BLITZER: What specifically, Congressman King, do you hate in this current form of the legislation?
KING: Well, the first thing from the beginning was the idea of establishing a national intelligence director. And I posed this question to Lee Hamilton and Slade Gorton before the Judiciary Committee when they testified before our hearing, and I asked them if you want to avoid groupthink, explain to me how you would set up a structure to create groupthink?
I turned it around 180 degrees. They didn't have an answer for that. But because the answer is if you put an intelligence director at the top of intelligence and he has hiring and firing and budgetary authority over all of the intelligence in America, that is the formula that will carve the square pegs into round holes and it will force groupthink upon the intelligence. That's a disaster for our intelligence system.
BLITZER: Carolyn Maloney, go ahead and respond.
MALONEY: The national intelligence director is not a new idea. Herbert Hoover was the first to support it, and numerous commissions before the 9/11 Commission: Graham Rudman, the Gilmore, the Bremer Commission, they all supported it. And the -- our commission, the 9/11 Commission reviewed this for 20 long months and Congress has had three years to act. It is -- the momentum is now. We should move forward and implement it. We know...
BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt, Congresswoman Maloney, and press you. Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and others, I assume Congressman King, as well, think it would be a huge mistake to U.S. troops in a battlefield situation to allow the new national intelligence director to determine whether satellite reconnaissance should help them or be used for some other purpose. That this has to remain the purview of the secretary of defense and they're not going to budge, they say, when it comes to this so-called chain of command issue. What do you say to them? MALONEY: Well, Wolf, right now historically, presently, in the future, the military controls the intelligence for the boots on the field and in the battlefield. Currently under the form that we have now, the CIA controls satellites but ultimately the commander in chief is the president and everyone, this bill underscores and gives probably more support to the commanders in the field.
BLITZER: Congressman King, do you buy that?
KING: It would require the president and Donald Rumsfeld to get a permission slip from the national intelligence director just to move a satellite over Falluja in order to defend our troops in the field. And I'm going to accept a profound and sound judgment of General Dick Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Chiefs themselves, and the Department of Defense that they need to have that kind of autonomy to be able to control their own intelligence.
The fact that there are people historically that have supported the idea of a national intelligence director doesn't do anything to convince me that we ought to do that and the commission has not made the case. In fact, the president established the TTIC, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, that forces the intelligence agencies to work together, puts them together in one location. He did that a year ago last May and we yet to have a terrorist attack in this country. It has been successful.
BLITZER: Let me get this straight, Congressman King. You accept the concerns of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who don't want to see a change when it comes to the chain of command, but you reject what the commander in chief, the president of the United States, the vice president of the United States, say. They say that this is not going to impact negatively on the troops in the battlefield.
KING: I'm going say this very bluntly. And that is that the administration is swept up in a political momentum as the representative from New York has just said. The political momentum is here. The president I think sees the concerns of the national security but also he would like to resolve this and that's why he's going to ask us to change our mind and vote for this bill.
I will not be one who changes his mind on this unless there's as policy that is accepted to allow the Pentagon to have the authority and also, the whole debate in this country seems to be that the majority of the Republican Conference and Congress should roll over and accept the will of the Democrats and the Republicans in the Senate. I suggest that they take a look at the provisions that we've required, accept them and we can pass the bill on the 6th of December.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Maloney, I'm going take a break, but I'll give you a quick chance to respond. Why don't you believe the uniformed military chiefs when they say this is a bad idea and stop this change in the chain of command? Why not go along with General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the other members, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, who agree with Congressman King? MALONEY: Wolf, it -- they have that authority now. Nothing will interfere with the troops on the field. In fact, they are strengthened. A great deal Duncan Hunter's language was accepted by the Senate version that passed the Senate. This is more a turf battle and control over their budget than anything else. They will always control the intelligence in the field. If anything, it is stronger. That is a nonissue in this.
BLITZER: All right. Well, it is still an issue for the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee with Congressman King, a lot of other Republican members of Congress who are standing in the way of getting this legislation passed. But hold your thought for a second, Congresswoman Maloney, Congressman King. We're going to take quick break. We'll pick up the conversation.
We'll also talk about driver's licenses and undocumented workers here in the United States. That's another issue standing in the way of this legislation. Can it be resolved? A quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking about the tug of war over reforming America's intelligence agencies with two members of the U.S. Congress. Carolyn Maloney is a Democrat from New York. She's joining us from Capitol Hill. Republican Steve King is from Iowa. He's joining us from Omaha, Nebraska today. And Congressman King, tell our viewers the other issue that is standing in the way of this legislation being approved, the driver's license issues that Congressman James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is so adamant in advancing?
KING: Well, and I'll be happy to do that. But first, I would like to close the point that if you give anyone budgetary control over Pentagon's intelligence, they will have control over the Pentagon, budget control is control. But we also need to control our borders. And of the 19 terrorists...
MALONEY: But may I respond briefly? Right now the -- may I respond briefly to that statement? Wolf, right now the 80 percent of the intelligence budget is controlled by the Pentagon. That's 80 percent of absolute billions. That is what the real fight is over. Most of Duncan Hunter's language was accepted by the Senate. He's still opposed, he's opposed to the bill.
KING: That's a red herring. This issue is on principle. I'm not hearing that debate in my conference, I'm only hearing it in the media and hearing it from the other side. But on the border control issues...
MALONEY: But the facts are true.
KING: ... there are 19 terrorists that came into this country that killed 3,000 Americans. Of those 19, they held with them 63 driver's licenses, presumably all of them legitimate. At least eight of them had registered to vote in the United States, and the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission were that he tighten up the borders, and we do a legitimate job of this.
But yet these kind of changes have been blocked and resisted by the other side of this argument. If we had kept them out of this country in the first place and enforced the laws that we had and then we enhanced some other laws, we would have not had the terrorists attack to begin with. But yet this is being denied by the other side.
BLITZER: What is the language that Chairman Sensenbrenner wants in the legislation? What does that say about driver's licenses and undocumented workers in the United States?
KING: It standardizes the requirement for driver's licenses nationwide. There are hundreds of different varieties of licenses, and it's not possible to look at one from, say, West Virginia and one from Iowa and verify at a glance whether they are legitimate or whether they aren't. This standardizes the information that comes in, and requires that there be some proof of identification to get that driver's license. That is one of the things. Another one would be the death penalty for terrorists attacks in the United States have been removed from this bill.
BLITZER: All right, well, let's stick to driver's license issue right now, which is a very sensitive issue. Why is it so sensitive? And why, Congresswoman Maloney, why do you disagree with the Chairman Sensenbrenner and Congressman King on this matter?
MALONEY: This bill has many good things in it, and we need to pass it. And as Chairman King said, let's not kill a bill over this one issue.
BLITZER: But this is an issue that is important. In order to get on plane, usually you need to show some form of identification, and usually the best form is a driver's license.
MALONEY: The 9-11 Commission Report called for minimum standards for driver's licenses that would be implemented by the states, and that's exactly what the bill does. My friend Steve is on the Judiciary Committee. They had three years to move forward with his thoughts on what should be done. This bill has been crafted and done. We can move it. We can pass it.
Sensenbrenner, I have great respect for him. He's the chairman of an important committee, but a question that I ask, Wolf, is who is running the country, the president of the United States or two powerful committee chairmen who don't like the bill? Everyone else agrees.
KING: We passed these changes in the Judiciary Committee and from the floor of the House of Representatives and you have not heard yet a reason not to accept the driver's license requirements that come from the House Judiciary Committee.
BLITZER: Well, here's the key question, though, Congressman King. If it's so important, this legislation is important, why not pass this legislation, and when you have a new Congress coming in to session in January, you bring that up right away, and you try to pass it as a separate piece of legislation; you don't let this one element stand in the way of all of the good potentially that could come out of intelligence reform?
KING: Well, there are a whole series of elements. But I think we all know the answer to this, and that is that, if we could pass it in the next Congress, these provisions, then we would have it in this bill and it would pass today. There are just people standing in the way of the conference committee report that want to have open borders and they want to be able to accept as many people into this country and get them to the polls to vote. That's the liberal side of this. And there is also the other argument, there are people who want cheap labor. Those two things are coalitions that are resisting the idea of securing our borders, and furthermore, to increase the number of domestic security for immigration in this country and refuse to allow them to go into place of work to enforce the law is another provision that's been stripped from the bill.
BLITZER: We have to, unfortunately, leave it right there. A good, serious debate. We'll know in the next few days whether this standoff can be resolved. If you have 10 seconds, I'll let you have the last word, Congresswoman Maloney.
MALONEY: All we're asking for is a vote in the House of Representatives. We talk about the importance of a vote in Iraq. Let's have a vote in the United States Congress on what has been supported by the Senate, the president of the United States and the majority of people. That's democracy. Let's have a vote on it. Move it to the floor. We're just asking for a vote. Let's have an up-and- down vote. It will make our country safer. It will pass if we can get a vote.
BLITZER: Carolyn Maloney, Steve King, thanks to both of you. We'll continue this in the next few days, a very good debate. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: I'll be back later today, every weekday, 5:00 p.m. Eastern for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." America's neighbor to the north, Canada, what do people up there think of President Bush? I'll speak live with one of the more vocal opponents of the president, Canadian parliament member Carolyn Parish.
Until then I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. LIVE FROM with Kyra Phillips and Tony Harris up next.
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