Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Pervez Musharraf; Interview With Paul Martin; Interview With Kweisi Mfume
Aired December 5, 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: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5 p.m. in London, 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We'll get to my interview with Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.
BLITZER: President Bush started the week in Canada. My exclusive interview with the prime minister, Paul Martin, coming up in the next hour of "LATE EDITION."
Mr. Bush ended the week talking to another important leader, the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf.
I spoke with President Musharraf, after he met with Mr. Bush.
BLITZER: President Musharraf, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to the United States. Always good to speak with you.
PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARAFF, PAKISTAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: There has been concern expressed here in the United States, over the past several days, since word from one of your military commanders came forward that they were withdrawing troops from a certain area of South Waziristan, because that could undermine the hunt for Osama bin Laden. What's going on?
MUSHARAFF: No, not at all. That's not the case at all. We are not withdrawing from anywhere. It is just a change of tactics.
There were a number of valleys in which these extremists or these terrorist al Qaeda members were. We have removed them, or we have broken their back. We have taken over all -- there are about five valleys which we have taken over completely.
We have removed them from their bases. We have killed hundreds of them. And these valleys were their logistic bases, their communication bases and command bases. So we have totally smashed them from these valleys. Now, they are in small, tiny pockets in the mountains.
So the issue was, should we go around in the mountains, all over the place, or control the northern points, communication infrastructure and these five valleys and then use all our means to locate them in the mountains and strike them?
BLITZER: So when the lieutenant general -- and I believe his name was Safdar (ph) Hussein -- said that 7,000 or 8,000 troops are being removed from this sensitive area, does that mean that there's a lessening in the hunt for Osama bin Laden?
MUSHARAFF: No, no, not at all. They are being relocated in a manner that we keep this whole area under our control. And then we use all our intelligence means, all our resources to locate every terrorist, and then strike them.
BLITZER: Is the commitment, the drive by Pakistan, by your government and your military and intelligence forces as strong today as ever in trying to find bin Laden?
MUSHARRAF: Absolutely. I mean, when you talk only of bin Laden, frankly, the issue is not going and locating one individual. We are operating against all terrorists.
Now, within that, we don't know where he is. He may be anywhere. And therefore, in our strikes, in many of our strikes we find some leader or the other, second stringer, third stringer, has been eliminated or killed.
So we haven't gone for a particular name as such. So all that I would like to say is that the concentration is not on one individual, frankly. We are operating against all terrorists. He could be anywhere, and he will be knocked out if he is in one of the areas where we strike.
BLITZER: A lot of people believe he is somewhere along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, probably on the Pakistani side. Is that your assessment? I know you don't know for sure. Is that your working assumption?
MUSHARRAF: No. No, it is not, because anyone who says probably he is in Pakistan, I would like to ask him what have you based this judgment on? So therefore I wouldn't be able to say that. He could be on Pakistan side, he could be on the Afghan side.
But all that I would like to say is, on the Pakistan side our army is inside all this tribal area belt of ours (ph). There are seven agencies, in all of them we are there. And we are operating there.
Is that the case on the Afghan side? Is all the border region, is the military operating in all the regions of the border? No, sir, they are not. So I leave it to anybody's judgment, where would he feel safer?
BLITZER: So are you suggesting the U.S. on the Afghan side, together with the Afghan military, the other allied forces on the Afghan side are not doing enough to find bin Laden?
MUSHARRAF: No, no. They are doing enough. They are doing a lot. There are certain force restrictions, also the terrain is very inhospitable, and it's a large area.
Now, are the troops enough to be in every area? No, they are not enough to be in every area, to cover all the mountains of the region on the border. They are not enough for that. So therefore they are operating according to their own strategy, which they are doing very well.
BLITZER: You saw that recent videotape that came out about a month or so ago by bin Laden. He was wearing these gold robes, no weapon around him. You heard what he said. Have you studied that video tape carefully to see if there are any clues where he might be?
MUSHARRAF: No, frankly, I didn't. Once we had studied in the past, and we thought the area would be more in the northern portions of the tribal belt. But more than that, one couldn't identify really, no.
BLITZER: There are some experts who seem to think he could be in Iran. Do you have any evidence to believe that's possible?
MUSHARRAF: Not at all. We don't have any evidence, so I wouldn't be -- it would be just guessing if I said anything.
BLITZER: Over the years, when we've spoken, you've suggested he was a sick man, Osama bin Laden, that he had kidney problems, he needed dialysis. Do you still believe that?
MUSHARRAF: I'm confused, really. I thought that all the intelligence said that he suffers from kidney problems, that he got dialysis machines into the area, but since then, he is alive, that I am sure of. I don't really know how much he's suffering.
BLITZER: Do you have any idea how much he's able to give commands? How much in control of al Qaeda he remains?
MUSHARRAF: I don't think he is that much in direct command and control, for the reason that he has to use communications, and his communication network obviously would be under surveillance, and also that his command structure is broken, as far as the Pakistan side is concerned.
They are all around in the mountains in small groups, so therefore to think that he is in charge of a very efficient command and control mechanism is not there.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the deeper issue of terrorism. As you probably know, in the 9/11 Commission report that was released, the bipartisan report that was released here in the United States, they expressed deep concern about these madrassas in Pakistan, these religious Islamic schools. They call them "incubators of violent extremism." There are thousands of these schools in Pakistan that have trained many of these terrorists, in effect. What are you doing about this problem, so that the mentality, the call for jihad, is going to go away?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, we are doing a lot. We have evolved something known as madrassa strategy to look into this.
But, first of all, the figures should be correct, the perception should be correct. All these madrassas are not teaching extremism and militancy. This is absolutely wrong. Some are, especially in the border belt with Afghanistan. There are many which are involved in militancy and extremism. We need to act against them.
But the other madrassas are teaching religion only. So what we have done is that we are asking them to teach all subjects and take board examinations, so that these madrassa students, who become religious teachers only when they grow up, are to be mainstreamed into other professional activity. And they have accepted our point of view, and they are coming on board.
BLITZER: There was a recent report in The Chicago Tribune. They sent a couple of reporters to one madrassa, the Darul Lum Akanya (ph) madrassa, in which the preacher there said, and I'm quoting now, "He is a brave and courageous man," referring to Osama bin Laden.
MUSHARRAF: Well, yes. Now, Osama bin Laden is a feature in these religious elements and even in the masses at the lowest level. Yes, he is a personality who is held in respect in certain quarters. There is no doubt about that.
So, therefore, he may have said this. But one has to see whether he's teaching militancy and he is preparing people to go for terrorist activities elsewhere in Pakistan or abroad. We are looking into these, and we'll take action.
BLITZER: There was a poll of Pakistanis conducted earlier this year by the Pew Global Attitudes Project and asked this question: "Are suicide bombings against Americans and Westerners in Iraq justifiable?" Forty-six percent of those Pakistanis questioned said yes; 36 percent said no.
That underscores a problem that exists, you would agree on that?
MUSHARRAF: Well, now, I wonder where this poll was taken. Yes, if you go to a certain segment of the society, this will be the result. But if you go to other segments, if you go to Karachi and Lahore where there are more enlightened people, I think this would not be the case.
But having said that, I certainly believe that at the masses level, there is a feeling against all that is happening in Iraq. And, therefore, this kind of perception or this kind of views are being expressed at the masses level.
(NEWSBREAK) BLITZER: We have to take a quick break, but just ahead, more of my interview with the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. We'll speak about the situation in Iraq, the overall situation in the Middle East and the spread of nuclear weapons.
Then, our panel of terrorism experts on why Osama bin Laden continues to slip through the net.
And later, my exclusive interview with Canada's Prime Minister Paul Martin about his talks with President Bush this past week and his efforts to keep on working to keep open borders and safe borders.
"LATE EDITION" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Our Web question of the week asks this: Will U.S. relations with allies improve during President Bush's second term? You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results later in this program.
Also coming up, Prime Minister Musharraf weighing in on the war in Iraq, nuclear tensions with India, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and much more.
You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
We return now to my interview with the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf.
BLITZER: Was the U.S. justified to go to war and remove Saddam Hussein?
MUSHARRAF: Well, we were against it initially. Pakistan was against going into Iraq. And now, with hindsight, one can say that we've landed ourselves into additional problems.
But having said that, I would like to say that Saddam Hussein was certainly not a person who was loved in Iraq. He was a hated man. He was very cruel. Those are the realities.
But when we go inside and when we are now inside as foreigners, people at the lower level don't like the visibility of foreign troops ruling their country.
BLITZER: So the bottom line, is the world safer today as a result of the removal, the invasion of Iraq, or is the world less safe?
MUSHARRAF: Oh, I think it's less safe, certainly. We are...
BLITZER: So it was a mistake for President Bush to order this invasion, with hindsight?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, with hindsight, yes. We have landed ourselves in more problems, yes.
BLITZER: So what do you do about the situation now? Should the U.S. and its coalition partners simply pull out of Iraq at this point?
MUSHARRAF: No, they should not. They should not because that will create more problems in the region. Now that we are there, we need to stabilize the situation and then only.
What I have been saying, my view is, one, is the direct action in Iraq to make sure that we stabilize and we have the elections after stabilizing, and make sure that the elections are successful. And then only should we have an exit strategy.
But there's an indirect approach to it and the indirect approach is resolving the Palestinian dispute. I think that is the heart of all the problems. Therefore, if we could resolve -- if you could address the issue of Palestine simultaneously with whatever we are doing in Iraq, maybe we are going to use an indirect strategy of cooling down and normalizing...
BLITZER: Well, is there an opportunity, with Yasser Arafat now dead, Palestinian elections scheduled for January 9th, is there an opportunity now for a jumpstart, a restart of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations?
MUSHARRAF: I do see an opportunity, certainly. But I would say there is a lot of flexibility required on both sides. That includes Israel. And they must show flexibility, and so should Palestinians.
BLITZER: Did you get a commitment from President Bush at the White House that he will get energized and get directly involved in helping the Israelis and the Palestinians?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, that was on the top of my agenda, frankly. And I am very glad to say that President Bush realizes it and he is very sure that he's going to play a very active role in bringing peace to the region and on the basis of two states of Israel and Palestine.
BLITZER: And let me just be clear on that. Your government, the government of Pakistan supports a two-state solution, a new Palestinian state living alongside the existing state of Israel?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, indeed.
BLITZER: All right. I just wanted to make sure we're all on the same page as far as what you see.
Is there anything special that you can do as a Muslim leader, Pakistani leader, to help the Palestinians advance the peace process? Are you going to directly get involved in helping Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen, for example, as the new leader of the PLO?
MUSHARRAF: I would like to do anything in that line. And I'll try. Because I think that is at the root of bringing harmony to the world.
BLITZER: To the world?
BLITZER: The world is going to be a safe place if there is an Israeli-Palestinian agreement?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, indeed, because that's going to pull the rug from under the feet of all the extremist organizations, I think.
BLITZER: So you're convinced of that?
MUSHARRAF: Absolutely, absolutely. That is the root of the problem.
BLITZER: But there would still be problems between India and Pakistan, even if the Israelis and the Palestinians lived in peace.
MUSHARRAF: Yes, yes. That...
BLITZER: So it's not going to resolve that problem. It's not going to resolve problems in the Sudan if there's peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
MUSHARRAF: Those are rather localized. I think the issue in Sudan is quite localized. But this one has repercussions in Iraq. It has repercussions in Afghanistan. It has repercussions everywhere.
BLITZER: Let's talk about India and Pakistan. There's a moment, there's an opportunity now to ease this crisis over Kashmir, the disputed area. Is there an opportunity now? How confident are you that this standoff between these two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, can end?
MUSHARRAF: I'm very optimistic about it because of the joint statement that was issued between me and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It has a lot of optimism in it, that we are supposed to be discussing all options for the resolution of the Kashmiri dispute in a purposeful manner. So therefore, I keep saying there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
BLITZER: And you're upbeat about this Indian government, your counterparts in India?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, I would say fairly upbeat. We need to move ahead on the process of considering solutions to Kashmir problem and reaching an option.
BLITZER: Relations between the United States and Pakistan are very good. They've improved dramatically since 9/11. A lot of us who covered, had been to Pakistan earlier remember when the relationship was not very good.
One thorn, though, in the relationship right now still is A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist who, for decades, had this worldwide effort to proliferate nuclear weapons to Iran, to Libya, North Korea. He's been pardoned. He's been arrested, but he's been pardoned by you.
The International Atomic Energy Agency would like to talk with him, the U.S. government would like to talk to him, but you're not letting them question A.Q. Khan. Why?
MUSHARRAF: Because, first of all, it shows a lack of trust in us, and it shows a lack of trust in our capabilities. So why is that so? Can't we interview him? Can't we interrogate him? Which we are doing, and we are passing the information. So why is there a lack of trust in Pakistan and our capabilities? That is very disappointing.
BLITZER: Well, you want to understand why the IAEA, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general, why they want to question him and get as much information about what he did during those 25 years to try to deal with the problem of nuclear proliferation?
MUSHARRAF: You think he can question him better than us? If anyone thinks that he can question A.Q. Khan better than us, well, I don't agree with that at all. We can question him the best.
And then there is a sensitivity. There's a domestic sensitivity. This man is a hero for the Pakistanis. And the sensitivity that maybe the world wants to interfere in our nuclear program, which nobody wants, which nobody likes. It's a pride of the nation.
So therefore, in all forms, because we don't want any interference in our nuclear program, we don't want any outsider coming and interviewing a person who is considered a hero in Pakistan, and this issue of lack of trust in our capabilities. All the way, that is not doable.
BLITZER: Does the Bush administration give you -- are they pressing you on this issue? Does the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon, do they want to question A.Q. Khan? Are they raising this issue with you?
MUSHARRAF: No, they are raising the issue of questioning him and getting all the information, which we are doing.
Now, they have some observation that maybe all the information has not come. We are totally on board on that. We will get all the information. The issue is whether we are passing all the information.
There is no doubt in anyone's mind in the administration here that we have passed all the information that we have. Now, the issue that remains is, maybe that he has not given all the information. We would go along. We want to know what are the issues that they want us to explore further, and we'll do that.
BLITZER: And can you assure our viewers watching in the United States and around the world right now that, in his activities, in making available nuclear weapons information to all of these other countries over these decades, you had no knowledge of what he was doing?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, 200 percent. Yes, absolutely.
When you say "you," are you meaning I, personally?
BLITZER: You personally and the government.
MUSHARRAF: No, not at all. Yes, the government, even from the time of when he started proliferating, all the governments and the military had no knowledge. Absolutely.
BLITZER: Another issue on the agenda while you're here in Washington, U.S. military sales of advanced weaponry to your country, to Pakistan. There's been a sensitive issue over F-16s and other equipment. Where does it stand right now? What do you want, your military -- and you're a general -- from the United States?
MUSHARRAF: We want a balance -- a balance in our region to be maintained in the conventional weapons. Now, in that balance, there is some imbalance which is being created because of the purchases being done by the Indian forces.
BLITZER: So what specifically, what hardware do you want? What have you asked -- do you have a wish list?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I don't want to get into the details of the wish list, but certainly high-technology aircraft. We are looking for high-technology aircraft.
BLITZER: And when you asked the president about this, what did he say?
MUSHARRAF: Well, we did discuss the issue, and I would like to leave it at that.
BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Mr. President. You've been very generous with your time.
Talk a little bit about you personally. You've been the target of assassination attempts now on a few occasions. How worried are you?
MUSHARRAF: Frankly, I am too busy to worry about myself. One is concerned about security, but I am not overly concerned. There is a job that I have to do, and I am doing that to the best of my ability.
BLITZER: How much longer do you want to continue this job?
MUSHARRAF: As long as it requires the job to be done and as long as I think I can contribute.
BLITZER: Is there a possibility of democratic elections in Pakistan? Is that on the agenda any time soon? MUSHARRAF: Well, that is the remark of democratic elections. We've had democratic elections. So I don't understand what you're meaning by a program of any democratic elections.
BLITZER: Well, international monitors come in, they watch, they make sure that this is a free and fair process.
MUSHARRAF: They always do. They were there in the last election, and the process, democracy is fully restored. We are going to have our local government elections next year.
We are going to open them to any kind of people coming in. And then we are going to have national elections in 2007, strictly in accordance with the constitution. I held elections in 2002, strictly according to the constitution. And they were democratically done, and there were observers from abroad.
So, I don't know what you're talking about.
BLITZER: So, this is a movement in the right direction over these years. You're satisfied with the direction that Pakistan is moving?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, yes, indeed, I am fully satisfied.
BLITZER: A final question: What is your biggest fear right now?
MUSHARRAF: I think the biggest fear does emerge from extremism and terrorism and militancy, which has really polluted society in Pakistan, not in a manner that the vast majority is there, which is moderate, but this minority which is militant and which is extremist, unfortunately, is holding this vast majority ransom.
So, my concern really is to bring this vast majority moderate in the dominant role and suppress the extremist minority.
BLITZER: President Musharraf, always good to speak with you. Welcome to Washington once again. Thank you.
MUSHARRAF: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Shortly after the interview, a Pakistani government spokesman told me General Musharraf didn't want to be that categorical in his assertion that President Bush had made a mistake by invading Iraq.
On the question of democracy in Pakistan, the State Department's official Web site now lists Pakistan, and I'm quoting now, as a "parliamentary democracy."
There have been questions raised about President Musharraf's refusal to give up his position as commander in chief of the Pakistani military by the end of this year, as earlier promised. He assumed power in a coup in 1999, became chief of state in 2001. Coming up next, a check of what's in the news right now, including some surprising comments today from U.S. Senator John McCain about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Then, what new clues does Osama bin Laden's most recent videotape reveal? A roundtable of experts weighs in.
More "LATE EDITION" is straight ahead.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Terrorism fears are running strong with the ongoing violence in Iraq and Osama bin Laden still very much on the loose.
Joining us now to help sort out where the war on terror stands, four guests: Michael Scheuer, he's a former high-ranking CIA analyst, also the author of the best-selling book, "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror," as Anonymous.
Reuel Gerecht is a former CIA Middle East specialist, now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute here in Washington.
Hamid Mir is a journalist who was the last person to interview Osama bin Laden.
And Peter Bergen is a CNN terrorism analyst. He has also interviewed Osama bin Laden.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.
And let's go around the table. Reuel, I'll start with you. We just heard from President Musharraf of Pakistan. Do you believe the government, the military, the intelligence services of Pakistan, are doing everything they can, realistically, to find Osama bin Laden?
REUEL MARC GERECHT, FORMER CIA MIDDLE EAST SPECIALIST: Probably not. I mean, I think Musharraf is in a very difficult position. I think the Pakistani military and intelligence services are probably split on the issue. Bin Laden is somewhat of a cult figure inside of Pakistan.
I think it's certainly true that since the recent assassination attempts on Musharraf that he has become much more focused on the issue. But I doubt if he is behind a full-court press.
BLITZER: Hamid Mir, what do you think?
HAMID MIR, PAKISTANI JOURNALIST: I disagree with my friend, because Pakistan is the only country in the whole world which has achieved maximum breakthroughs in war against terrorism, arrested more than 600 al Qaeda fighters from Pakistan. And Pakistan army is doing a very good job in South Wiziristan. They have lost hundreds of their soldiers and officers in South Wiziristan. BLITZER: But, Hamid, you will acknowledge there are elements within the Pakistani military and the intelligence service that probably are sympathetic to Osama bin Laden?
MIR: You see, you are questioning the authority of President Musharraf by raising this question. If they are still very powerful, then how Musharraf is cooperating with the international community in war against terrorism?
I'd repeat it, that Musharraf and Pakistan have this real, you see, success in the whole world, that they have arrested all of the important figures of al Qaeda from Pakistan.
And on the other side, the U.S. troops are present in Afghanistan, and you have not arrested any important figure from Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Michael Scheuer, you ran the Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda desk at the CIA, the analytical part of it, for a long time. What do you think?
MICHAEL SCHEUER, FORMER CIA AGENT: I think the beginning of wisdom on this, Mr. Blitzer, is that the Pakistanis, under General Musharraf, have done more than anyone really had a right to expect them to do.
Too often in Washington, we assume that our national interests are identical with all the other countries of the world. And certainly much of what President Musharraf has done has not been in his country's interest: creating a destabilized area in the Pakistani border areas, taking out the Taliban government, which was government- friendly to Pakistan.
I think what we really are at a point now is where we can't expect others to continue to do our dirty work.
I would agree with Mr. Hamid Mir that, in Afghanistan, the bulk of the war has been fought by American special forces and by the U.S. clandestine service. Despite leaks by the Pentagon, there was no major U.S. military activity in Afghanistan in 2004.
BLITZER: So the Tora Bora adventure that General Tommy Franks and General John Abizaid and others have spoken about, a major U.S. military offensive, you don't buy that?
SCHUEUR: I haven't seen one this year, in 2004, sir. I...
BLITZER: What about earlier, 2002, 2003?
SCHUEUR: Well, we missed at Tora Bora. Bin Laden probably was there, and we chose to use surrogates who were long-time friends of Osama bin Laden. Notwithstanding what the military has said, they simply chose to use -- the generals chose to use surrogates.
BLITZER: Peter, what do you think of this decision by the military, the Pakistani military, to remove 7,000 or 8,000 troops from South Wiziristan, an area, these tribal regions where there was widespread speculation that Osama bin Laden or other high-ranking al Qaeda operatives could be hiding out?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, there seems to be a certain amount of confusion, which General Musharraf tried to clear up in your interview with him. But I mean, I think a factual statement is none of the senior leadership of al Qaeda have been found in the tribal areas, whether it's Wiziristan or somewhere else. They've all been found in Pakistani cities.
And so, really, it seems to me, given this record of high-level al Qaeda leaders, who keep getting arrested in Pakistani cities, that it may well be possible that bin Laden is in a town or in a small city somewhere. There is no reason to presume that he isn't.
BLITZER: You mean like Karachi, where there's been several arrests.
BERGEN: Yes, which is a city of 15 million. I think that's unlikely. But certainly, the notion that -- there is a conventional wisdom he is in the tribal areas. But despite this big operation we've had this year with the Pakistani army, there is no evidence we've found of senior members of al Qaeda being arrested in the tribal areas.
BLITZER: What about that, Osama bin Laden, Hamid Mir, hiding out in some town or city in Pakistan?
MIR: I cannot reject this possibility, but if he is hiding in some small town or city, this small town or city is definitely on the border of Afghanistan, because bin Laden is different from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, he is different from Abu Zubaydah. Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah can move individually in a bus or in a vehicle, but bin Laden cannot move without more than 60 to 100 security guards. And in a city like Karachi or Lahore or Rawalpindi, he cannot move with a big convoy.
So, definitely, he is hiding. I agree with Peter Bergen, that maybe he is hiding in a town or city, but that town or city is closer to the Afghan border.
BLITZER: All right. What do you think, Reuel?
GERECHT: I mean, I think Afghanistan is the mothership for bin Laden. I think that's where he is most comfortable. I would be surprised if he would stray too far. I think his men, that's something else. And I think bin Laden had long-standing networks in Pakistan, but I would be surprised if he ran too far from the border.
MIR: I would like to add a very small thing, that I was there in Afghanistan, in south and east, in October this year. I was there to cover the election, and I got that opportunity to visit different parts of Afghanistan.
And I can claim here, with full confidence and authority, that I counted 15 districts in south and east of Afghanistan are still in the control of Taliban. It was very difficult for me to move there because I am without beard. So these cities in the east and...
BLITZER: So, that reinforces what Michael Scheuer was saying, that not enough is being done on the Afghan side of this border. Is that right?
SCHEUER: I think so, sir. I think, you know, you can't expect the special forces and the clandestine service to secure a whole country, and right now that's about what we're expecting.
BLITZER: So, before they start criticizing Pakistan, U.S. officials, they should take a look at what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan. Is that fair, Peter?
BERGEN: I'm going to have to disagree with my friend, Mr. Scheuer. You know, if the Taliban were that strong, why didn't they intervene in the election, which, after all, is the most important event in recent Afghan history? It was a dog that didn't bark.
SCHEUER: But that was also a Western expectation to think that any Afghan was going to gun down people at the voting booth.
BERGEN: Well, they certainly -- the Taliban repeatedly said they were going to do that.
MIR: I have talked to some Taliban leaders in the southern part of Afghanistan, including Mullah Abdul Salam Rakti. He was the corps commander in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when Taliban were in control. And he was encouraging Pashtuns to vote for Karzai. And he told me that we are supporting Karzai because he is a Pashtun. We would not like to vote for Yuna Scanony (ph) because he is a Tajik and he belongs to Northern Alliance.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue this conversation and also broaden it. Is there a possibility, a possibility, Osama bin Laden may be hiding out right now in Iran?
More with our panel on who has the upper hand in the war on terror. Much more coming up when we come back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Richard Miniter, the author of the best-selling book, "Shadow War," suggests that Osama bin Laden may be hiding out right now in Iran. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MINITER, AUTHOR, "SHADOW WAR": Those robes are very similar to, if not identical to, those worn by Shia clerics. That is to say, not the Sunni -- the version of Islam followed by bin Laden, but the majority version of Islam followed in Iran. Shia cleric from the Mashad region. That's in northeastern Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the yellow robe that Osama bin Laden was wearing on that most recent videotape. What do you make of that?
GERECHT: Well, I don't have enough sartorial expertise to judge his whereabouts by his clothing. I mean, I think it's unlikely that he's in Iran.
If you would ask me his number-two, Ayman Al Zawahiri, might he be there? I would have a hard time answering that one, because Zawahiri has been sort of a poster boy for the Iranians for quite some time.
But I'm skeptical that bin Laden would want to entrust his fate to the clerical regime.
BLITZER: Hamid Mir, there are other bin Laden relatives hiding out in Iran right now, aren't there?
MIR: According to an Iranian newspaper two years ago, Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri was arrested in Iran mistakenly. And when they realized that he's Ayman Al-Zawahiri, he was released.
And according to some other reports, Saad bin Laden, who is the son of bin Laden, he is also hiding there. And Salman Jasim Bugat (ph), who was the spokesman of al Qaeda three years ago, he's also hiding there.
These are the reports...
BLITZER: Do you believe it's possible that Osama bin Laden is hiding out in Iran?
MIR: You see, I was contacted by some people in July 2002 in Karachi. And they offered me an interview with a very important person in the Iranian territory. And they offered me that you should go with us to Quetta and then slip inside Afghanistan without passport, and then we will manage your meeting with a very important man.
BLITZER: Who was that very important man?
MIR: They didn't tell me but these people were from al Qaeda. So maybe...
BLITZER: So you thought it was Osama bin Laden?
MIR: Maybe it was Osama bin Laden.
BLITZER: And they said this interview would take place in Iran?
MIR: Yes. And they said, "But you should not disclose the location of your interview." So I said this is very difficult for me because I am not an American journalist. I'm a Pakistani journalist. An American journalist will not be questioned by the FBI or CIA. So if I travel to Afghanistan and Iran without passport, this is in violation of international law, so I should not do it.
BLITZER: All right. Michael Scheuer, what do you make of all this Iranian discussion?
SCHEUER: I think it's probably a figment of the neoconservatives' imagination, sir. Osama bin Laden is somewhere along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He's comfortable there.
He's under no pressure from either side really, even the strenuous efforts that the Pakistani army made in what Waziristan -- Waziristan is a small port, part of a huge border.
He's not going to move around. He's only in danger when he moves. And certainly he's not going to put his future viability in the hands of the Iranians.
BLITZER: Have you looked into this issue that Richard Miniter talks about, that the yellow robe is consistent with some garments worn in certain parts of Iran?
SCHEUER: Sir, the robe he wore in the latest video was the same robe he war at the wedding of his son in, I think, April or May of 2000. It's not at all unusual for him to wear that particular robe.
BERGEN: I mean, I'm deeply skeptical of the notion that bin Laden's in Iran. Certainly, the Iranians have said we've got people from al Qaeda. People in the U.S. government have told me that Saif Al-Adel, the military commander of al Qaeda, is in Iran; Suleiman Abu Gheit, as Hamid just indicated, the spokesman of the group. There are senior al Qaeda guys in some form of custody in Iran.
What the Iranians are doing is, no one can really tell. Are these guys sort of on ice? Are they going to be used in bargaining chips for some future...
GERECHT: I mean, I think I'd just add to what Peter said, not only in custody, but have on occasion been caught through intercept communicating with people outside of the country.
GERECHT: So I think one has to be careful.
Speculating, I think it is fair to say that there are very suspicious activities going on in Iran with al Qaeda. Jumping from that to believing that bin Laden is there is a different issue.
MIR: If you analyze the Iranian strategy, they always play double games. Previously, they were supporting both Ahmed Shah Massoud and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. They were enemies of each of them, but they were using them in Afghanistan.
Then they also used the same strategy in the Middle East. They were supporting Hamas on one side and secretly supporting PLO on the other side.
So maybe they are playing the same double game again. And you see in Iraq, there is lot of violence.
BLITZER: On the latest videotape that we saw of the number-two al Qaeda leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, did you see anything in that videotape that jumped out at you giving clues as to the strategy, the tactics of the al Qaeda leadership?
SCHEUER: The Zawahiri tape, Mr. Blitzer, was simply closing the loop on a conversation bin Laden has been having with the American people for the better part of two full years, saying, "We don't really care who your leader is. You're responsible for your policies." And what Zawahiri said was, "This is the final time we're going to talk to you about this."
And what I took it to be is a reiteration of their effort to make sure that the American people are adequately warned about the next attack that's going to occur. They're playing to the American people, and they're also playing to the Muslim world, where warning before an attack is a religious requirement.
BLITZER: Are you convinced that al Qaeda will try to launch a major, spectacular terror strike against the United States any time soon?
SCHEUER: "Spectacular," I think, sir, puts too much of the media flavor on it. What they're looking for is a strike that will hurt our economy and kill people. Yes, I do think they're capable of that, and I think they intend to do it.
BLITZER: That sounds spectacular to me.
SCHEUER: Well, spectacular, yes, but not -- too often Hezbollah- type attacks are spectacular without any real long-term consequence. That's not what al Qaeda is after.
BERGEN: I'll just second what Mike said.
GERECHT: I'm skeptical. I mean, I think they certainly would want to. I think, if al Qaeda were capable of it, it would have struck us by now.
I think they've had a real hard time implanting cells inside of the United States. I think the unsung hero, really, in the war on terror is the American Muslim community. You have not seen the response inside the American Muslim community that you have seen in Western Europe or the Middle East.
I also think the actions in Western Europe, the Western Europeans, particularly the Western European security services, have gotten a lot more serious about Islamic extremism. And that's the likely launch platform for another attack.
So I'm skeptical.
BLITZER: All right. We have to leave it, unfortunately, right there. An excellent discussion, four good panelists. Thanks very much, Reuel Gerecht, Hamid Mir, Peter Bergen, Michael Scheuer, also known as "Anonymous," but no longer.
SCHEUER: Yes. No longer.
BLITZER: He's come in, come out, come in, whatever.
SCHEUER: I'm here.
BLITZER: Don't forget our Web question of the week: Will U.S. relations with allies improve during President Bush's second term? You can vote right now. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results in the next hour of "LATE EDITION."
Still ahead, mending fences. My exclusive conversation with Canada's prime minister, Paul Martin, about President Bush's visit this week to Canada, U.S.-Canadian relations, and the war on terror, coming up.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We'll have my exclusive interview with the Canadian prime minister, Paul Martin, in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.
BLITZER: The long-time relationship between the United States and Canada took a major hit because of the Iraq war. But this past week, President Bush attempted to shore up ties between the United States and its northern neighbor.
Following the president's visit to Canada, I spoke with Canada's prime minister, Paul Martin, about U.S.-Canadian relations and much more.
BLITZER: Mr. Prime Minister, thanks very much for joining us on "LATE EDITION."
PAUL MARTIN, PRIME MINISTER, CANADA: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Do you support the elections scheduled to take place in Iraq on January 30th?
MARTIN: Yes, we do. Obviously, there's a lot of debate as to whether, you know, the circumstances under which they are going to be held, but I think that everybody really wants to see them held as soon as possible.
BLITZER: What should Canada be doing to make that possible?
MARTIN: Well, we're obviously asked by the federation who supervise these kinds of elections to do whatever we're asked to do in terms of training people. The elections are a very complicated process if you've not been through them. Certainly training people to do it, we're prepared to participate in the supervision of the monitoring.
This is an area in which Canada has a great deal of expertise, the overall institution-building involved in creating a democracy. And so we do have expertise, and we're prepared to offer it.
BLITZER: Well, less than two months to go. Is there a plan already afoot? Are things in the works right now to get Canadians involved in making this happen?
MARTIN: Well, I certainly know that the structures are being put in place. We have indicated that, if we're asked, we will participate. And we can move very quickly once we're asked, because we've done this before.
BLITZER: Would it go beyond monitoring and facilitating the elections? The Canadians have done that around the world for many years. Is there a possibility that you might send troops to help the U.S., the British forces, the allied forces, the Iraqis themselves, to make sure that security is intact for those elections?
MARTIN: Well, we are very, very heavily involved in Afghanistan. We're increasing our troops going into Afghanistan. We're in Haiti. We're being asked to look at sending advisers into certain parts of Africa.
Our commitments are such that it would be very hard for us to commit troops into Iraq, especially with the provincial reconstruction we're about to take on in Afghanistan.
But in terms of the election structures, in terms of providing the people to make sure that other people are trained and that the whole thing can work efficiently, we're prepared to provide whatever people are required.
BLITZER: But what if it is a matter of sending 1,000 troops? The Canadian armed forces must have 1,000 troops that could be freed up to go and help the allies and the Iraqis in Iraq. Is it a matter of a shortage of troops in your armed forces, or is there a political desire not to get involved militarily?
MARTIN: No, our troops are stretched very, very thin.
This is not only a Canadian issue, by the way. If you take a look at the number of failed and failing states around the world and the need for peacekeepers, all of us are stretched very heavily.
Now, we're going to be increasing our troop levels substantially, both our regular troops and our reserves. We're in the process of getting that under way.
But right now, we just do not have the troops. And that's why, in fact, a very heavy involvement, one of the largest of any of the countries in Afghanistan is, you know, calling everything we've got.
But look it, you know, in terms of Iraq, at the present time we're training police. We've put over $300 million -- we're one of the major donors to Iraq. So we're certainly doing our share.
BLITZER: Do I hear you right when you're suggesting that down the road, once you bulk up your military, you're not ruling out the possibility of deploying troops to Iraq?
MARTIN: Well, I think that's going to depend an awful lot on where we're asked to go.
I mean, just take a look at the situation in Sudan. There is a peace process under way. There is a treaty that is about to be signed. They're going to want to have elections there. There is going to be an enormous call on the Africans, but it may well require other people.
Haiti, there's a major disarmament that going to have to go on. Troops are going to have to go back into there if that disarmament is going to take place.
And so, you know, Iraq is very, very important, but so is Afghanistan. And the president made that very clear. And so are other hot spots. And Canada intends to play a role where it can play a significant one.
BLITZER: Canada supported the U.S. in the invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, the destruction of the Taliban there, the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But you didn't support the Bush administration going in to get rid of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Is there still a fundamental difference that you see, as the Canadian leader, between what is going on in Afghanistan and what is going on in Iraq right now?
MARTIN: No, there is no doubt that we saw the two situations very differently. And we did not agree with the invasion of Iraq.
And the president quoted a statement that I made, once that was done, once we're into the situation where we want to create a democracy in Iraq, take those elections and rebuild Iraq, as far as I'm concerned, that we are at one with the United States. We want to see that happen.
BLITZER: Let's talk about U.S.-Canadian relations right now, in the aftermath of President Bush's official visit to Canada this week.
There was an editorial in the Montreal Gazette on Thursday. Among other things, they said this: "Bush's visit to Canada generated lots of headlines but changed nothing. As we did a week ago, a year ago, a century ago, Canadians still live beside a big self-obsessed powerhouse."
Is that the prevailing mood in Canada?
MARTIN: No, it isn't. The fact, you know, there's no doubt about the power of the United States. There's no doubt about the role that the United States is asked to play in the world. But the fact is that we share more than just a continent. We have many values in common, and we have a desire to build a better world.
And I think that one of the things that happened with the president's visit was, you know, that I think people were reminded that what happened after September the 11th, in terms of, you know, 33,000 passengers, mostly Americans, suddenly finding themselves sheltered in Canadian homes right across the land, over 200 planes taken care of.
Let me just give you an example of the relationship -- the way Canadians feel about Americans. Two days after September the 11th, there was spontaneously, it wasn't organized, 100,000 people gathered here in Ottawa on Parliament Hill at a silent vigil. It's the largest single vigil that has ever been held in the nation's capital.
BLITZER: But, Mr. Prime Minister, that was then. And since then we have seen images of Canadians, including members of parliament, stepping on a doll of President Bush. We have seen the American flag burned. We have seen pretty horrific sites over the past year or two, as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, I suspect.
MARTIN: No. You know, first of all, that was one member of parliament, not many members of parliament. And that act was condemned by all of the other members of parliament, to begin with.
Second of all, you cannot judge Canadian attitudes by the actions of a few. The very kinds of actions you've been talking about in terms of the American flag, I've seen on television, probably on CNN, the same kind of actions take place in the United States when people were outraged over certain things. So, you cannot judge it by that.
But let me just say to you, look, we're a family, and families have a lot of values in common and they also have disagreements. And we have had disagreements with the United States, and we will have those disagreements in the future.
But that doesn't mean that there is not a huge bond of friendship between our two countries, and it's a mistake to judge that friendship by the actions of a few. BLITZER: There has been a recent poll, a poll conducted in November, November 19th through 22nd, and asked whether Canadians and Americans fundamentally have different values. Among Canadians, 82 percent thought they had different values than Americans. Among Americans, 50 percent thought they had different values than Canadians.
It seems like there is some sort of disconnect. You want to elaborate on that?
MARTIN: Well, you use the word "disconnect." On a lot of issues, Canadians and Americans differ, that's true. You know what? On a lot of issues, people who live in the New England states differ with people who live in the Southern states or who live in California.
The fact is we -- but we are two different countries. We have got two different histories. We began in a different way, and we play a different role in the world.
Are you talking about the basic values of freedom, democracy, the alleviation of poverty? I don't think that we differ on those values.
If you're talking about a lot of the social debates that take place throughout the world and North America, yes, we do have differences of opinion, and that's just because we're different people.
BLITZER: One of the major differences of opinion remains on the issue of trade -- and this is the greatest trading partnership in the world, the United States and Canada -- the issue of Canadian beef exports to the United States. This has been a problem since mad cow disease. One example of that was discovered in Alberta more than a year or so ago.
Listen to what the president said about why there has been a delay in letting beef resume being exported from Canada to the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know if you've got bureaucracy here in Canada or not, but we've got one in America. And there are a series of rules that have to be met in order for us to be able to allow the trafficking of cows back and forth, particularly those 30 months and younger.
And, so, we're working as quickly as we can, and I understand the impact it's had on your industry here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that an excuse, or do you accept that argument that the president can't control the bureaucracy in the United States?
MARTIN: Well, it isn't so much -- first of all, I accept what the president said. I think the president wants to see the border open to Canadian beef. He understands that in terms of all of the scientific-based tests that we are mad-cow free and that essentially that border should be open. And, in fact, it's American consumers who are suffering.
It isn't -- but there are delays. Once the government has made a decision, there are delays in the United States, and those delays have got to be expunged. But the fact is one would hope that that could be accelerated, and I think that it will be.
BLITZER: Let me move on to another sensitive issue briefly because our time is almost up. The issue of drugs, Americans buying prescription drugs in Canada.
There is an argument that's made in the United States, it's not necessarily safe, that your standards aren't up to the standard of the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, in the United States. Do you buy that?
MARTIN: Not a bit. Our standards are among the highest in the world, and Canadian drugs are among the safest.
And the fact is that I have not heard anybody make that allegation. And we did discuss this with the U.S. administration when they were here, and nobody said that. In fact, everybody accepted that Canadian drugs and our standards are as high as they possibly can be.
BLITZER: Why are they so much cheaper in Canada than in the United States?
MARTIN: Because we, essentially, have a price review board that makes sure that, in fact, that these prices are not allowed to get out of whack. We have got a publicly funded health-care system, and it's one that we're very, very proud of. And we make sure that, in fact, these costs are kept within a reasonable limit.
BLITZER: Another issue that Americans are very nervous about is Canada's relatively open immigration policy, the fear that terrorists, al Qaeda, could get into Canada and then come across the border into the United States.
So what are you doing right now to make sure that doesn't happen?
MARTIN: Well, we have put an enormous amount of effort, an enormous amount of money into making sure that our border is open for trade, it's open for Canadians going back and forth and Americans going back and forth, but it's closed to terror.
And, essentially, the negotiations and the structures that have been put in place with Governor Ridge and our deputy prime minister, Anne McLellan, here, everybody now is looking to them as a model. And what happened this week with the president is we want to now go beyond that.
But let me just say to you on the preamble to your question, you know, that's really just a bum rap. The fact is that if you take a look at the people who participated in the September the 11th, they didn't come through the Canadian border. In fact, they were living in the United States, and they took their training in the United States.
So, every country, every country which certainly receives immigrants or every country, period -- forget about -- because these aren't necessarily immigrants. The terrorism, the Oklahoma bombing wasn't an immigrant. Every country has problems.
But we have put an enormous effort into it, and we're working very well with the United States on that.
BLITZER: I want to wrap up this interview, Mr. Prime Minister, with a comment that the president made during his visit to Canada this past week. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Paul and I share a great vision for the future: two prosperous, independent nations joined together by the return of NHL hockey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As a long-time hockey fan, going back to my days with the Buffalo Sabers, in the NHL, what's the matter? Why can't there be NHL hockey right now? Can't the leaders of Canada and the United States make this happen?
MARTIN: I think you're going to have to take to the players, agents, the owners and to the players themselves.
But I've got to tell you, we are two big countries and we are united. And one of the things, we want to see is hockey back. There's no doubt about that.
BLITZER: I want to see it back, as well.
Prime Minister, thanks very much for joining us.
MARTIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: And coming up, intelligence matters. We'll talk with two key members of the U.S. House and Senate about that stalled intelligence reform legislation, what it's going to take to break the deadlock.
Then, the end of an era for America's oldest civil rights organization. A conversation with the outgoing NAACP president, Kweisi Mfume.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM KEAN, CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: I've never seen a bill that had the support of a president, a vice president, the leaders of both parties in Congress, in this case of course the families, and 80 percent of the American people, I've never seen a bill like that that failed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean calling on Congress to improve an intelligence reform bill that's currently stalled in the House of Representatives because of two key provisions. Congress reconvenes for a rare December session tomorrow with hopes of finally passing the measure.
Joining us now, two guests: from Salt lake City in Utah, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. He's chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and he's a key member of the Select Intelligence Committee.
And here in Washington, Congresswoman Jane Harman. She is the top Democrat on the House Select Intelligence Committee and a key member of the House Homeland Security Committee as well.
Welcome to "LATE EDITION." Thanks to both of you.
And I'll begin with Senator Hatch. Will this legislation finally be approved this week?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, I'm not sure it will be this week, but I think there is a very good chance that it will be.
You know, Duncan Hunter and Jim Sensenbrenner, the two chairmen, are very thoughtful guys, and I think their suggestions ought to be looked at very carefully. And hopefully, we can resolve these with an effective compromise.
But I personally believe that, you know, we've been doing intelligence reform now for three years. We started with the Patriot Act. We've caught over 300 terrorists in this country; so far, prosecuted and convicted over 130 of them. And we've been building assets by beefing up human intelligence, in particular.
Of course, Porter Goss is the new head of the CIA. And he's no country bumpkin. He understands that place. And there have been some changes out there that some have criticized but I think are probably worthwhile changes.
And last but not least, the president has been issuing executive orders that have been implementing many of the ideas.
BLITZER: But, Senator Hatch, Senator Hatch, do you personally support the legislation as it currently stands? HATCH: Well, I do, but I do believe it can be improved.
And I don't think we should ignore two very fine chairmen. Duncan Hunter is a terrific guy with a lot of ability. We ought to give every consideration we can to his suggestions.
And Jim Sensenbrenner is one tough, good guy, concerned about border security, and he's also concerned about, you know, the immigration-asylum issues that terrorists have been exploiting.
BLITZER: We are going to go through both of those specific issues in a moment. Let's let Congresswoman Harman weigh in.
Do you think there is enough common ground to get everyone on board in the coming days and get this passed in this lame-duck session?
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think, if this bill if put up for a vote in the House and the Senate this week, which is the last week of the 108th Congress -- let's understand that; if the bill isn't passed this week, it dies -- if it's put up for a vote in both houses, it will pass with bipartisan majority. Democrats are being very responsible. We want to support this bill, as negotiated.
I would just point out to my good friend Senator Hatch that Duncan Hunter and Jim Sensenbrenner have been accommodated by the conferees. I'm one of the so-called "big four." Lots of their issues are in the bill.
And with respect to the claims by Duncan Hunter that we are hurting the war-fighter, that is absolutely not true.
BLITZER: But it's not only them now. Now Senator John Warner, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he is weighing in and expressing serious concerns, as well. He's not a member of this House-Senate conference committee.
Well, I'd love a chance to sit down with Senator Warner.
Present law provides -- this is the law we have always lived under and we're living under now -- that the director of Central Intelligence controls these defense satellites, except for the tactical satellites which are controlled by the battlefield commanders.
Present law works. It worked in the first Iraq war. It worked in Kosovo and Bosnia. And it works now. No one is complaining about it. The three agencies that are always referred to that are in the Pentagon, like the NRO, are satisfied with present law.
Well, Congressman Duncan Hunter is complaining about it bitterly. He's the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Listen specifically to what he says, because he has been outspoken on this issue. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA): What the Senate sent over was this plan that would cut that lifeline between our satellites that are giving intelligence all the time to our troops, telling them where the bad guys are, what the targeting should be, what's happening, when you need to move. That would be cut or severed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And he's had a son that served twice in Iraq. This is a sensitive issue for him.
HARMAN: I believe it's sensitive. I respect his passion, but he's misinformed about what current law provides and what this compromise bill would provide. It does not cut the lifeline.
BLITZER: But wouldn't the new national intelligence director, this civilian overseeing all of intelligence and all of these satellites, be the final arbiter of where the satellites should go, whether the CIA should use them, as he says, to look for poppies in Afghanistan or whether they should go to help U.S. troops fighting terrorists?
HARMAN: No. Right now battlefield commanders control tactical satellites. That would not change under the new bill.
And with respect to our national satellite assets, they are controlled presently by the civilian who is the director of central intelligence. It was George Tenet. It's now Porter Goss.
And the military is always given highest priority in wartime. The president has the authority now to shift responsibility to DOD. He's never done it because it's never been necessary.
BLITZER: Senator Hatch, is she right?
HATCH: To a degree. Jane is a very effective member of the Intelligence Committee and one of the great leaders over there in the House, so I have a lot of respect for her.
But let me just say this. You know, if everything just goes according to what we think is going well today, we're probably going to be all right.
But I think what Duncan Hunter is concerned about and John Warner and also others, a pretty significant number of members of Republicans in the House and Senate is, are we setting up a situation that some time in the future might break down because there will be a lack of communication?
Now, I personally don't believe there will be. I know Jane doesn't believe there will be.
But I'm not going to ignore Duncan Hunter. I'm not going to ignore Jim Sensenbrenner. They're thoughtful guys. They're tough guys. And it's no fun for them to have to stand up and hold up this bill while trying to get some provisions in that, basically, they think are absolutely essential and I know many in the military think are absolutely essential.
BLITZER: Well, is there a compromise, Senator Hatch, that the president can put forward that will satisfy Chairman Sensenbrenner, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Warner, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and at the same time allow this national intelligence director, this new position that will be created, to have complete budget authority and all other authority over every aspect of intelligence gathering?
HATCH: I certainly think so. You know, the national director of intelligence is going to be a brand new concept that we hope will work very, very well, and we think probably is essential. But I hope there can be a compromise, and I think there probably has to be.
I know there's some, you know -- Jane is right. There have been a lot of compromises on this bill.
HATCH: And there's no question about it that it's come a long way.
But let me just tell you something. Whether we pass this bill or not this year, it's going to pass, and it's going to pass relatively quickly. And I would...
BLITZER: But if it doesn't pass this year, you start from scratch with the new Congress, isn't that right?
HATCH: No, no. I think we would probably be able to bring it up again really, really quickly.
But to make a long story short, I don't think that Osama bin Laden is going to be quaking in his boots because we do or don't pass this bill. I don't think he is going to change his approach.
The point is, I have been making the point that for the last three years we've been working on intelligence reform. There have been a lot of reforms that are working right now. The president has brought about a lot of reforms. He's implemented through executive order a lot of things that the 9/11 Commission has asked for.
I think this bill will pass. I think we can get it done this week. I hope we can. But I don't think you should ignore these exceptional people in the Congress.
HARMAN: They haven't been ignored, as Senator Hatch knows.
HATCH: No, I agree with that. I agree with that.
HARMAN: And the conferees, a bipartisan group of us, have worked closely with them to accommodate most of their concerns.
There's even language in the bill now drafted by the vice president's council on the chain-of-command relationship between the president and the war-fighters, which has never been in law before because it's not necessary because the chain of command isn't broken.
I just want to state what the purpose of the bill is: It's to create a unified command across 15 intelligence agencies, so that they coordinate with each other and share information. It's not a new bureaucracy. It's not new arm badges (ph). We've learned the lessons of the Homeland Security Department. And it will make us more effective. And it will help the war-fighter, and it will help the president, who is also a consumer of intelligence.
BLITZER: The purpose is to make sure the left hand of the U.S. government talks to the the right hand of the U.S. government.
HARMAN: That's right. That's right.
BLITZER: We're going to continue this conversation. There's another sensitive issue that's standing in the way of an agreement. That would be immigration driver's licenses. We're going to talk about that, concerns that some members of the House have, Republicans, by and large. We'll continue our conversation with Senator Hatch, Congresswoman Harman.
Also, a quick check of what's making news right now, including the latest on the election dispute in Ukraine.
And later, race relations in America, a special conversation with outgoing NAACP President Kweisi Mfume.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I believe the bill is necessary and important and hope we can get it done next week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R-CT): If we don't have a vote on September 11th, it will be my feeling that the president didn't weigh in strong enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing to talk about 9/11 legislation to try to reform the nation's intelligence community with our guests: Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.
You heard what Chris Shays, Republican Congressman from Connecticut, had to say. You have the votes right now, Senator Hatch, to get this passed, Republicans and Democrats. If the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, allows a vote to come up, why won't he? HATCH: Well, I think he's, you know, he's selected as the leader of the Republicans in the House. And if he doesn't have a majority of Republicans, I don't think he's going to want to do something that just pleases Democrats.
Now, frankly, we ought to get beyond that. Whoever is working on this on the conference committees ought to be able to resolve this problem. And I do think the vice president is weighing in and I think the president is weighing in. Hopefully we'll get it resolved.
But again, these are serious problems. These are not easy things. And sometimes people push these bills because there is a time frame in which it's easier to get them through. And this happens to be that time frame because of all the pressure. But nevertheless, we ought to get it right.
BLITZER: All right. One of the other issues, the other big issue standing in the way of this legislation, the issue of immigration reform, making sure that illegal undocumented workers here in the United States don't get driver's licenses.
James Sensenbrenner is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Listen to what he said this past week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): What good is reorganizing intelligence if we don't have homeland security? Eighty- five percent of the American public wants to see immigration reform for our own protection. And it's the senators that are ignoring that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And not only the senators, Congresswoman Harman, a lot of Democrats in the House of Representatives, he would say, including yourself.
HARMAN: Well, he might say that. But there are immigration reforms in the compromise bill that are enormously important. We establish 40,000 new detention beds for those who are going to be deported, 8,000 new border guards, 4,000 new border inspectors.
And on driver's licenses, we establish federal standards for tamper-proof driver's licenses. They have historically been regulated by the states, and the state governments want to keep them as a state- regulated issue.
BLITZER: But why wouldn't you go as far as he wants you to go in making sure that these driver's licenses, which are official photo I.D. -- you need them to get on a plane in this day and age -- why didn't you go as far as he wants you to go?
HARMAN: Because it's a state issue. Many states including California only issue driver's licenses to legal residents. They don't issue driver's licenses to undocumented people. And we think every state should be competent to make those decisions. What we care about is national standards to be certain that you can't use fraudulent documents.
And by the way, in our bill we also say that TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, should set standards for what documents can be used to get on airplanes. That, I would think, is what Congressman Sensenbrenner is worried about.
BLITZER: Senator Hatch, he's your counterpart in the House of the Representatives. Chairman Sensenbrenner, is he way off-base or is he right?
HATCH: Listen, I have a lot of regard for him. He's crusty and he's tough, and he stands very firmly for his positions. But, look, what he wants to do is stop illegal aliens from having driver licenses. And he's convinced that the only way to do that and to keep our borders secure is to have this additional language that he wants.
I personally agree with his language. I do agree with Jane, too, though, that a lot of immigration matters have been put into this bill. But it doesn't seem to me -- to me, this is kind of a no- brainer. We know that homeland security means that the federal government is going to have to do an awful lot of this work.
Look, generally, I'm for having the states handle these problems, but in this particular case, we know that they haven't been able to do. He wants minimum standards for driver's licenses. He wants minimum fraud standards, anti-fraud standards. He wants to make sure the system works. And I don't think he's off-base here. I just hope we can reach a compromise on this matter.
BLITZER: All right. We only have a limited amount of time left. I want to get into the subject of Iraq right now, elections, specifically scheduled for January 30th.
Senator Biden was on ABC earlier today, saying that the Pentagon, the Bush administration, is still not being straight with the American public. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Success is still possible, but it is receding rapidly. It's being made much more difficult. Anybody who tells you, like we were told just prior to the November election, that Iraq is more secure, that is simply not true, not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jane Harman, I suspect you agree with Senator Biden.
HARMAN: I just returned from a tour of the region, Wolf. Everyone out there thinks that Iraq is not going well.
I support the decision to increase the tours of our troops there to make sure we have more people on the ground during the election.
I also feel strongly that we have to keep that election date. Everyone around the world expects that. Looking at what's going on in Ukraine, you can see the importance of free and fair elections. If we don't meet that election date, I think that that is a real surrender to the terrorists.
BLITZER: Senator Hatch, he's just returned to the United States, Senator Biden, with Senator Hagel, Senator Chafee, and Senator Feinstein, from an eyewitness tour of what's happening in Iraq. And he says the U.S. still doesn't have enough troops there, and they're going to be stuck there for years and years to come.
HATCH: I have a lot of respect for all of those senators. They're good people, they work hard.
But let me tell you, you know, the vast majority of that country is secure or at least is functioning very well. There are about three major provinces that aren't functioning very well. Fallujah is a perfect illustration, and you can name a few others. And that's going to continue.
But I agree with Jane. We have to go ahead with this election. I think we can. The reports I get -- and I get a lot of them, as well -- consist of reports that say that the vast majority of people in Iraq are really pleased, are happy that we're there or happy that we've been able to accomplish what we have.
But we do have these insurgents we have to put up with, and we knew it when we went in there. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. Some estimated it would take as high as 10 years to get this done. I think we've moved remarkably well.
Can we do better? I think so. I think we've got to do everything we can to support our troops and give them the equipment and the balance that they need to be able to do the job over there.
BLITZER: All right.
Why are you shaking your head, Congresswoman Harman?
HARMAN: Well, I think we didn't know these things early enough. I think another intelligence failure was the failure to predict the size and scope of the insurgency in Iraq and to do adequate post-war planning.
We're playing catch-up now, and I'm very sad about the fact that we've lost so many troops, including 130 in the last month. We have to stay there, but our planning should have been better.
We need intelligence reform, so that next time we have better intelligence, not just for the war-fighter, but for the president of the United States.
BLITZER: I'll give you very briefly the last word, Senator Hatch. Go ahead.
HATCH: Well, it doesn't take any brains to realize that we were going to have insurgents coming from outside of that country, like Al- Zarqawi and others who would cause problems. We all knew that. We had intelligence on that.
The fact of the matter is, we didn't realize some of the insurgencies that are within the country that we've had to deal with, like al-Sadr, and that has gone better than people have thought up till now.
But to make a long story short, we've got a lot of work to do. But I don't think anybody who went into this knew or thought for a minute that it wasn't going to be a tough job or wasn't going to take a lot of time, it wasn't going to take a lot of effort, and that we're going to have to hang in there and do this. This is a grand, grand thing if we could get democracy in this particular area of the Middle East. It would set a standard that would help the whole Middle East.
BLITZER: Stakes, no doubt, are enormous for all concerned.
Senator Hatch, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.
Congresswoman Harman, thanks to you as well.
Just ahead, my special conversation with the NAACP president, Kweisi Mfume. We'll talk about race relations in America and the success of Senator-elect Barak Obama and the next generation of African-American leaders in this country.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KWEISI MFUME, NAACP PRESIDENT: I came to do a job. I really didn't come to stay. And that, when my job was complete and when I felt in my heart of hearts it was time to move on, no one would have to ask me to leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: NAACP President, former Congressman Kweisi Mfume announcing, this past week, he's leaving the civil rights organization after nine years at the helm.
Joining us now from Baltimore is Kweisi Mfume.
Mr. Mfume, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.
MFUME: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You still have work to do over there at the NAACP. Why now?
MFUME: Well, you know, when I gave up my seat in the Congress to do this, I said I would come on board for five years. It turned into nine years -- and nine good years, I should say. It's a great organization. My job really was to restore financial responsibility, create a new energy and excitement about the organization and a higher profile, and to usher in a whole new generation of young people. I have done that.
And there is a part of me that recognizes, to be true to myself and be true to the organization, it's really time for me to close out this phase and to allow someone else to expand on the organization and to do things that I couldn't do or haven't done and clearly to take it to a new level.
BLITZER: We'll talk about what you want to do down the road shortly. But would you have resigned if John Kerry had been elected president?
MFUME: Yes. Yes, I would have.
BLITZER: So, that has nothing -- your resignation had nothing to do with presidential politics?
MFUME: No, only in the sense that my contract with the organization ended October 24th, a few days before the election. But I knew in my own heart of hearts that I was going to move on.
Wolf, I always feel like I have to make a contribution or take on a challenge that no one else wants. And so, you know, my time in the city council, the 10 years I spent in the Congress, the willingness to give up a congressional seat and to take on the NAACP for nine years, those are things that get me going. I like that.
And so, in order that I don't become an old, decrepit fool, I think I had better move on and let someone else in and then find another challenge for me to take up.
BLITZER: What about the issue of this federal investigation of the tax-exempt status of the NAACP, as a result of getting involved in politics? You know this investigation under way. There have been reports that there is a split within the NAACP leadership on this matter.
MFUME: Well, I think that the IRS investigation is regrettable. The IRS has a tremendous amount of power, and it must use it judiciously and cautiously, because just the taint of a violation can really hurt an organization or an individual.
In this instance, I think is going to run its course and that, at the end of the day, a year or so down the road, maybe less time hopefully, that the IRS will drop its investigation because they will recognize that there were not merits to the complaint.
However, having said that, it's very important, I think, for the NAACP to recognize, and other organizations, whether they're on the far-right or the far-left, that most people are really in the middle. And sometimes it's good to navigate that way without giving up your principles, your fight, your determination or your mandate. BLITZER: The president spoke earlier in the year about making sure that Republicans are eligible to compete for African-American votes in the United States. Listen to what he said, in trying to reach out to the black community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Is it a good thing for the African-American community to be represented mainly by one political party? That's a legitimate question.
How is it possible to gain political leverage if the party is never forced to compete?
BLITZER: That's a fair point he's making, isn't it?
MFUME: It is. And I'm sitting here listening to it, and I'm thinking about history, because it's the point that Roosevelt made and others during the time with the New Deal, and that Johnson and others made during the time of the civil-rights era when black voters in this country were really nine-to-one Republican. It was the party of Lincoln, the party of emancipation. And they argued that point, and it was hard to refute that point.
And you saw this moving away from just being Republicans to being Republicans and Democrats and then because of the civil-rights movement and the absence, quite frankly, of a large number of Republicans, people gravitated to the Democratic Party even more.
It is a judicious argument. It's one that we ought to take with a grain of salt because there's real value and truth there.
And I've always said that it is good for any group of individuals to be able to talk to independents, Democrats and Republicans, if your job, at the end of the day, is to make a difference in this world and to do so politically and socially.
BLITZER: The president's record in terms of bringing in African- Americans, Hispanics, into the highest levels of his Cabinet, into his government, seems, at least on the surface, to be pretty good, given the number of high-level positions he has right now.
Condoleezza Rice is going to be the next black secretary of state, assuming she is confirmed by the Senate. Alberto Gonzalez will be the first Hispanic attorney general of the United States.
What do you say about his record in recruiting and bringing in minorities to top-level positions?
MFUME: I think his record will be judged more by history than by an appointment or two or three or four. And what I'm saying is that, if you are affecting change to the people whose race you seem to be promoting, whether it's Latino or an Asian-American or an African- American, the question becomes not so much the appointment, but what's happening to those people on the ground. Has their quality of life improved?
And if it has, then the appointment takes on a great more deal of substance. It's looked at by history as the right thing to do.
If, however, there are appointments, and nothing changes in terms of the quality of life from for those individuals from those particular races or groups, then that will raise a question, I think, that will haunt this president, like it would haunt any president later in history.
So I'm hoping Mr. Bush realizes that, and I'm hoping that as we see appointments made that we also see real change in the quality of life by African-Americans, poor whites, Latinos and Asians across this country.
BLITZER: All right, one final question. What about you? Are you going to run for the United States Senate from your home state of Maryland?
MFUME: Can I take the 5th Amendment?
BLITZER: No. We want a yes or a no right now.
MFUME: Yes, I don't know what I'm going to do. You know, Paul Sarbanes is a dear friend of mine. He and his wife, Christine, I've known for years. I support him. I have supported him for the last three decades.
I don't know what he is going to do. And I think what he is going to do has to be his decision and done in his own way. And once he makes that decision, then I will make one.
BLITZER: You won't challenge him in a primary, is that what you're saying?
MFUME: I don't expect that I will be doing anything now but getting a little rest and trying to figure out what I do next, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Kweisi Mfume, congratulations on nine years at the NAACP. Thanks very much for joining us.
MFUME: Thanks a lot.
BLITZER: Up next, the results of our Web question of the week. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Here are the results of our Web question of the week. Take a look at this.
Remember, though, this is not -- repeat, not -- not a scientific poll.
And that's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, December 5th. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com