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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Michael Leavitt; Interview With Mowaffak al- Rubaie
Aired May 7, 2006 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PORTER GOSS, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: It has been a very distinct honor and privilege to serve you, of course, the people of the country and the employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A surprise shake-up. President Bush's CIA director Porter Goss steps down. Is he leaving the spy agency better equipped to fight the war on terror?
We'll talk with the Republican chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, and the top Democrat of the House Select Intelligence Panel, Jane Harman.
Plus, insight from former deputy CIA director John McLaughlin, former homeland security adviser Richard Falkenrath, and the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Clark Kent Ervin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCES TOWNSEND, ASST. TO PRESIDENT FOR HOMELAND SECURITY AND COUNTERTERRORISM: Good planning and preparation will avoid it being chaotic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Fears of the bird flu. What are the U.S. government's plans for handling a potential pandemic?
We'll get answers from Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens and it's a new chapter in our partnership.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Iraq takes a critical step toward a new unity government. But how will the country handle the double threat of insurgency and sectarian violence? And when will U.S. troops be able to stand down? Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffak al- Rubaie weighs in.
Should Israel launch a preemptive strike against Iran?
I'll ask Israel's former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Late Edition"'s line-up begins right now.
It's 11:00 a.m. here in Atlanta and in Washington, D.C., 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 4:00 p.m. in London and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
I'll speak with two leading members of the U.S. Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Republican Pat Roberts and Democrat Jane Harman, in just a moment.
BLITZER: A political shockwave in Washington to end the week with the surprise resignation of President Bush's CIA director Porter Goss only after 19 months on the job.
Joining us now from Washington to discuss that and more, two guests: the Republican chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, and the ranking Democrat of the House Select Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman of California.
Thanks to both of you. Good to have you on the program.
Mr. Chairman, I'll start with you.
Already Republicans, key Republicans expressing concern over General Michael Hayden's apparent nomination that's supposed to come forward tomorrow to replace Porter Goss as the head of the CIA.
I want you to listen to what the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra, said earlier this morning, and what Saxby Chambliss, a key Republican member of the Intelligence Committee, said earlier as well.
Listen to these two clips.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REP. PETER HOEKSTRA (R-MI): I think putting a military person in charge of the CIA, our premier civilian intelligence gathering agency, is exactly the wrong signal to send today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) U.S. SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): I, too, have a little bit of concern, frankly, about military personnel running the CIA. It is a civilian agency. It operates differently from the way that the Defense Intelligence Agency operates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Mr. Chairman.
What do you say? Do you think it's a good idea for the president to nominate General Hayden to be the next director of the CIA?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Well, it's his call, number one.
Number two, I think we're into a paradox of enormous irony here.
Here we have a man who everybody says is one of the best briefers that they've ever had on intelligence, a man who has been described by people on both sides of the aisle as probably knowing more about intelligence than anybody else.
But there's some real concern about somebody from the military heading up the CIA.
You can solve that pretty quickly by simply resigning in terms of his post of being a general and also putting in some deputies there that I think people would agree with, that have a strong civilian background and that would help the situation with the CIA as they transform and continue the transformation.
But it is the president's call, and we'll get into that in the confirmation hearings. Every senator will have an opportunity to say their piece, and if that becomes a real issue, I think probably General Hayden will be able to address it if, in fact, he is the nominee.
BLITZER: Well, let me press you on that point, Senator Roberts.
Should he retire from the U.S. military, become a civilian if the president's going to go forward with his nomination?
ROBERTS: Well, again, that'd be his call. But if somebody is concerned about that, he could certainly do it.
He's had diplomatic experience. He's had civilian experience in the past.
I'm not -- you know, don't get me wrong. I'm not in a position to say that I am for General Hayden and will vote for him, so on and so forth.
I like General Hayden. I think he's got a tremendous background in intelligence. He's done a great job with NSA -- all of that, all of his credentials.
But it will be up to the committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, to confirm him and it will be up to the members to ask these tough questions. And if it is General Hayden -- we haven't heard the announcement yet, everybody expects that -- it will be up to General Hayden or Civilian Hayden at that particular time to answer those concerns.
BLITZER: So you haven't made up your mind if the president nominates him whether you will support that confirmation?
ROBERTS: Well, I just think -- what I want to say is that the Senate Intelligence Committee, more especially in terms of what I believe as chairman, is that we always have an obligation to have every senator have the opportunity to express their concern and to question the nominee about whatever concern that may be.
And we all know that the CIA is going through a very difficult transition process. The key for whoever steps in is to understand the culture and the mission and some of the obstacles down there, and transition the agency without the agency -- or without that person becoming an enemy of the transition.
Now, that's apparently in part what happened to Porter Goss.
BLITZER: All right.
Let's get reaction from the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congresswoman Jane Harman.
Do you think this man is suited to become the next director of the CIA?
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think we won't know that until the Senate holds tough and fair confirmation hearings.
Hayden is a capable man, but there are certain strikes against him. One is his military background. I agree with Pete Hoekstra about that. It will send a bad signal to CIA employees in the field who are worried about a DOD takeover.
A second is that he has a technical background. He doesn't have experience building the clandestine service, which is what the CIA needs to transition into.
And the third thing is that it's not clear he will be independent of this White House. I think he made a big mistake in going to the National Press Club a few months back and defending the legality of the president's NSA program. That program was a program he invented while head of the National Security Agency. But defending its legality is something the White House needs to do, and the White House so far in my view has failed to do that. That program does not comply with law.
BLITZER: Here's an excerpt, Jane Harman, of what General Hayden told the press club back on January 23rd regarding the warrantless surveillance program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN, NATL. INTELLIGENCE DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the 9/11 Al Qaida operatives in the United States and we would have identified them as such.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, I take it you've been briefed by him and others. He was then the director of the National Security Agency. Has he convinced you that he did the right thing and is doing the right thing right now?
HARMAN: There are two issues, Wolf.
The first is whether we want to listen to or read the e-mail of people, including Americans, who are plotting with Al Qaida to harm us. My answer to that is you bet.
But then the second question is what should be the legal underpinning of doing that? And I say, and I believe that many Republicans in the Senate agree with me, like Arlen Specter, that, that program has to comply fully with the law Congress passed, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the Fourth Amendment -- and it can.
I've been briefed on the program and I've been briefed on how FISA works, and I just think it's a question of resources. And maybe in the deepest heart of Mike Hayden he agrees with me.
But I hope that this administration instead of just trying to, I think, lead the Senate into a trap in voting for or against Hayden as a marker of whether they support or oppose the program, I hope this administration will now deal with Congress.
This is an institutional issue. Congress needs to defend its laws and push back, and make this administration comply with the law.
BLITZER: Senator Roberts, the chairman of the judiciary committee, the Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, is quoted in The Washington Post as saying this about General Hayden: "I was briefed by General Hayden. I got virtually no meaningful information. Now with Hayden up, this gives us an opportunity to ask these questions and insist on some answers if the Senate is of a mind to deny confirmation."
He really feels that General Hayden has not stepped up to the plate. He wants answers. A lot of other senators want answers as well. Is this another problem that General Hayden will face if in fact he is nominated by the president to lead the CIA?
ROBERTS: Well it may well be. Senator Specter has had a lot of problems with his program from the beginning. By the way, I arranged that meeting between General Hayden and Senator Specter. Senator Specter has a strong philosophical, I guess, position against electronic surveillance either used in terms of a military mission. I don't. I have been briefed along with Jane from the inception of this program. I think it's lawful. I think it's constitutional. I think it is in keeping with the 1947 National Security Act. Jane disagrees. I honor that disagreement. The whole problem with trying to fit this military capability of saying, OK, here is a terrorist -- what, a terrorist organization overseas and they are plotting attacks even as I speak against the United States.
And there are cells in the United States who are involved in that. We have the military capability to detect that and stop that attack. And it's a matter of time, hot pursuit, and also real agility. Now, under this program we can do it. And there are enough safeguards by the seven people that we have now and the 11 people we have on the House side that are going through the oversight of this program.
We have been briefed. We've been briefed on the operational details. We've been out to the NSA. On the Senate side we've had the CIA in, the FBI in. We're going to have Justice. We have legislation that we think may work. So let us work this thing out if we possibly can. Senator Specter's been making a lot of comments based on hearings, but he's not been read into the program.
BLITZER: Should he be?
ROBERTS: Well, I mean, that's up to the administration. And it's up to many of us who think that if we have 20 people now involved in the program, and it should stay in the intelligence committee because of, quite frankly, all of the misinformation about this program that has been a cascade ever since The New York Times, you know, broke the story, I think it's very dangerous. You don't need to be diminishing our capability. Al Qaida must be rejoicing at all this debate.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, here's how he defended the warrantless surveillance program, General Hayden, again at the press club, insisting this wasn't just a blanket eavesdropping on American citizens but there were specific targeted reasons to go after individuals suspected of a connection to al Qaida. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYDEN: It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Fremont, grabbing conversation that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data mining tools or other devices that so-called experts keep talking about. This is targeted and focused.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is he right? You've been briefed on this program.
HARMAN: Well, that's the brief, that it's targeted and focused. And that's exactly why I think in each case where the administration wants to eavesdrop on a U.S. person, it can prove probable cause and get a warrant. Let's remember, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been modernized 12 times at the administration's request after 9/11. It is a modern tool.
And I think this is only a resource issue. And John Conyers, ranking member on the house intelligence committee, and I and our membership will introduce legislation shortly to put the burden on the administration to show us what additional resources it needs. We'll provide that. But emergency warrants must be gotten for every single time the U.S. wants to eavesdrop on a conversation, and that can happen.
It's important to know if Americans are collaborating with al Qaida. I want to know that. I'm sure you want to know that. But let's do it lawfully. This is a lawless White House with respect to this program. And I think they're sending out Mike Hayden to be -- I mean, I think there's a trap here.
And his confirmation should not be about whether you're for or against the NSA program. It should be about whether he's the best man to transform the CIA into the premier clandestine service for the 21st century. Porter Goss was the wrong guy and had a politically inexperienced staff with him. Mike Hayden is capable, but it's up to the Senate to ask him tough questions. Can he speak truth to power? Can he push back if the White House is doing something illegal? If he answers those questions well and he proves he can do this, well, then let's hope that the president is making a sound choice. He surely, again, is smart enough to do this job.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break, but we have lots more to talk about with Senator Roberts and Congresswoman Harman, including what's happening in Iraq right now. We'll also get to other issues, including Iran. Should the U.S. launch a military strike? Should that be on the table in dealing with Iran's nuclear program?
Then, preparing for the bird flu. Are you ready? Is the country ready? We'll talk with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt about whether the government is prepared.
And later, my special conversation with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al Rubaie, about efforts to take control of his country's deadly insurgency and the sectarian violence. "Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Our web question of the week asks this: Are you worried about catching bird flu? You can cast your vote. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results at the end of our program.
Straight ahead, Republican Senator Pat Roberts, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman. We're talking about intelligence matters and lots more. You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition. He's helped this agency become integrated into the intelligence community. And that was a tough job. He's led ably.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush speaking about the resignation of Porter Goss as the head of the CIA on Friday. Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're talking with the Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Pat Roberts, and the top Democrat on the House select intelligence committee, Jane Harman of California. Representative Harman, was he pushed out? You suggested earlier he was not the right man for the job.
HARMAN: Well, there were rumors for a long time that he was leaving, and that there was dissatisfaction with him. Obviously, we've seen people outside the CIA critique him. And we saw -- or I saw -- an article in Foreign Affairs magazine by a senior, former senior CIA person about how the intelligence was politicized, a fellow named Paul Pillar.
But nonetheless, I -- Porter Goss, whom I've known and served with since 1992 -- in fact, he was chairman when I was ranking member on intelligence for some years -- seems to me changed a lot in 2003 after it was clear there was no WMD in Iraq.
We were doing an investigation on the House side of the Iraq WMD failure and it followed some other bipartisan work, and then he shut it down in September. And then that highly partisan staff came back and then they went with him to the CIA. And I think the mission he was on was not the mission he should have been on.
Now there's a chance for this new person to send a signal to the CIA operatives all around the world, as we speak, who are in places that can't be disclosed -- they're without their families, the families don't know what they're doing, they're trying to penetrate the tough targets, they're trying to get into the cave with Osama, and if they succeed, our world will be safer.
And the message to them has to be, your agency stands behind you. We're not playing any more political games. You are not a pawn in a chess game. You are the person we're focused on. We're going to help you succeed and have the skills you need to keep our world safe.
And so that didn't happen under Porter Goss. Let's hope it happens under his successor.
BLITZER: He offered, Senator Roberts, an upbeat assessment of how he's leaving the CIA. This is how he put it on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOSS: I would like to report back to you that I believe the agency is on a very even keel, sailing well. I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically your goals for our nation's intelligence capabilities, which are in fact the things that I think are keeping us very safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A lot of experts, though, Senator Roberts, disagree. They think he's leaving the CIA in disarray and, in the words of Jane Harman, in a freefall.
ROBERTS: I wouldn't call it a freefall.
I tell you what, you serve in Washington -- and I don't buy what Jane said at first. I do buy what, you know, Jane said at the last.
When you ride off into the sunset after you've had two years or four years or 10 years at any position here in this town, I think you'd better buy a dog if you want a friend. That's what everybody says. There's a lot of arrows on his back.
Let's remember two things. The CIA has been going through a very difficult transitionary period. First there was the 9/11 failure. Then there was the WMD failure.
Now, the reason that he drew back from the WMD investigation is that the Senate conducted that inquiry -- took us over a year, 511 pages. We interviewed over 250 analysts and we proved there was a severe egregious intelligence failure, not only in the United States but worldwide.
Now, how do you fix that? Right in the middle of that, why, we have a situation where Director Tenet stepped down and in came Porter.
Now, there's three things that he's done, and everybody ought to get him some credit for it. One, better human intelligence, and in that pushing those people outside of the stations and into the field. Two, better analysis that goes into the National Counterterrorism Center. And three, better information sharing or information access. That has to accrue in part to his leadership.
But in that -- in the same breath I will say that the CIA, when it goes through those changes, there are a lot of people at the senior level that simply push back.
Just look at what we tried to do in Congress when we do intelligence reform. You heard the bulldozers late at night scraping turf up against the doors.
So, you know, consequently I think that he's done a good job under difficult circumstances. I would give him the benefit of the doubt. And for all of these people who are ex-CIA, ex-generals, ex- this, ex-that, instant expert, armchair experts, I've got a large roll of duct tape.
I mean, really, you know, let's at least -- most of these people weren't even around and taking part when some of this happened. That doesn't take away from the fact that we have a tough job to integrate the intelligence community, which we're going to try to do.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, do you sense there's any connection of Porter Goss's departure to the investigation of the man he installed as the number three person at the CIA, Dusty Foggo, who was the executive director, who's being investigated now for connection with scandals involving former Congressman Duke Cunningham, all sorts of sordid tales going on in Washington?
HARMAN: Well, I think the criticisms of the Goss leadership began way before the investigation into Duke Cunningham and those associated with him. I think it is unfortunate that some of the people caught up in this investigation were the partisan staff that Porter Goss installed at the CIA. I think that is part of the problem. He set himself up for failure.
Again, I wish him and his family well. Pat is right that this is a tough town. And he has a lovely wife and so forth.
But my point is where do we go from here? How do we set up a leadership structure at the CIA that melds well with this new director of national intelligence?
Mike Hayden does bring a plus there, because he has worked as John Negroponte's deputy. And we are trying to set up a joint command across these agencies.
But the goal now is to transition the CIA into our premier spy agency. I am for doing that. That's not a skill set that Mike Hayden brings. Plus, he brings the military background. Plus, there's the issue of his independence.
So the Senate has got to be tough and fair in these confirmation hearings, or we may make a mistake.
BLITZER: Senator Roberts, we only have a minute left.
Do you believe...
ROBERTS: My name is tough and fair. I'm chairman tough and fair.
BLITZER: Well, senator tough and fair...
ROBERTS: Yes, thank you.
BLITZER: ... do you believe there's any connection, anything there...
BLITZER: ... to the allegation...
ROBERTS: No, no, no. BLITZER: ... that Dusty Foggo, the number three official at the CIA, the man that Porter Goss put in that job has some connection to these scandals involving former Congressman Duke Cunningham?
ROBERTS: I've already said no four times.
And I know Porter Goss. It would be -- it's inconceivable that, that would take place.
I think it's a very natural thing that happens here in Washington, where we have all of the birds on the pole line that, you know, go caw, caw, caw, and then they can't get one scandal out of their mind, and then so they fly to the next one. Not Porter Goss.
BLITZER: I want to leave it right there.
Senator Roberts, Congresswoman Harman, a good discussion here on "Late Edition." Thanks to both of you for joining us.
And we're going to have much more on the CIA shake-up coming up here on "Late Edition" in the next hour.
Also coming up, bird flu fears. We'll get an update from the U.S. health and human services secretary, Mike Leavitt, on the government's preparations for a possible pandemic.
Also coming up, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including the Israeli government's eviction of Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
Stay with us. You're watching "Late Edition."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRAN TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: We are facing the real threat of a human pandemic inside the United States. Some of our advice is to communities, state and local government, but some of it is to your average American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, outlining the administration's national strategy for a pandemic influenza implementation plan. Welcome back to "Late Edition." Just a short while ago, I spoke with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt about ongoing concerns over the government's preparations for bird flu.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition." MICHAEL LEAVITT, HHS SECRETARY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: The whole issue of bird flu, there has not yet been a single case of bird flu arriving in the United States. No bird has come to this country yet with bird flu, is that right?
LEAVITT: That is true. Not in a human or in a bird.
BLITZER: But they have happened in many other parts of the world, especially in Asia and in Europe. You anticipate at some point that bird flu will come to the United States.
LEAVITT: It's in well over 50 countries now. There's no reason to believe that the United States will be exempt from that. We can't build a cage over the United States. At some point, we will have a bird with the h5n1 virus on board enter the boundaries of the United States. That will not be a crisis. It will only be a crisis if it begins to transmit between people.
BLITZER: What will happen? Because there will be a sense of concern, understandably, if there is a case of bird flu in the United States. What do you do then? And at that point still the transmission is from birds to humans, not from human to human. If it goes from human to human, obviously it's a pandemic.
LEAVITT: The steps that you would expect would occur first of all would be, we would find a bird and there would be some delay between the time a bird was found and the time that it could be confirmed. And we know that there will be concern. We'll be doing all we can to provide information for people to keep the concern in proper proportion.
BLITZER: So you immediately take steps to quarantine that area, is that right, where that one bird or several birds may have been discovered?
LEAVITT: Of course it would depend on the situation. If it were just a wild bird and if it were just a few birds, we would do all we could to find out if it had gone into a broader area. A bigger concern would be if it had infiltrated a domestic flock, and then the Department of Agriculture would become engaged, and we'd literally begin to cull the birds or to kill them in a humane way, and that would begin to isolate the virus. Actually, that's occurred in the United States on three different occasions during this century. And the Department of Agriculture has dealt with it in that way quite effectively.
BLITZER: But not in terms of this current crisis, especially this current strain of the bird flu. When, based on all the scientific evidence you have, is there a way you can predict when this might? Are we weeks away? Months away? What is your expectation?
LEAVITT: In terms of the virus coming on a bird, there isn't a way we can predict it. However, it would not be a big surprise if we saw it even in the next few months. The migratory patterns of wild birds would lead us to conclude that at some point in time, we'll see birds from Asia or who have been through Europe or who may have been exposed to the same virus that would be happening in other countries.
BLITZER: All right now, that would be one issue, a source of concern, but certainly no reason to panic. If some day, God forbid, this virus is transmitted from human to human as opposed to from bird to human, then that becomes a pandemic. You have suggested in the past it's not a matter of if, but when. Is that right?
LEAVITT: We should be explicit about this. The bird flu has, in fact, made the leap from birds to people. It simply has not begun to transmit between people in a highly efficient way. That's an important part of this. It would need to pass from person to person and then to another person in order for us to declare it a pandemic.
Now we have seen it already go from birds to person, and there's been isolated situations where there's been suspicion, with very intimate contact, where a person may have caught the virus from another person. But it's not gone in an efficient way at this time.
BLITZER: It's not moving yet. You issued, the federal government, a report this week, a national strategy for pandemic influenza limitation plan, as it's called. Among other things, it says this: "A pandemic will spread across the globe over the course of months or over a year, possibly in waves, and will affect communities of all sizes and compositions. In terms of its scope, the impact of a severe pandemic may be more comparable to that of war or a widespread economic crisis than a hurricane, earthquake or act of terrorism. It is projected that a modern pandemic could lead to the deaths of 200,000 to two million people in the United States alone." Which is an enormous number, clearly.
LEAVITT: Wolf, pandemics happen. They have happened throughout history. There's no reason to believe that the 21st century will be different than centuries past. We have had three pandemics in the last 100 years. 1968, 1957, the viruses in those cases were very efficient. They spread to a lot of people, but they weren't highly virulent, meaning a lot of people didn't die. In 1918, we had a virulent and an efficient virus. Lots of people got sick and regrettably, many died.
If we had a similar circumstance to 1918, we would see as many as 90 million people become sick. About half of those, 45 million, would require serious medical attention and regrettably, as many as two million could die. That's the reason that the president has asked that we mobilize the country in preparation. We are overdue for a pandemic, but we're under-prepared, and we're working on every front at this moment to prepare for an event of that type.
BLITZER: Here's another line from this report: "The center of gravity of the pandemic response, however, will be in communities. The distributed nature of a pandemic, as well as the sheer burden of disease across the nation over a period of months or longer, means that the federal government's support to any particular state, tribal nation or community will be limited." That's not very reassuring to a lot of the communities out there.
LEAVITT: But it's an important reality. We learned a great lesson from Katrina, many lessons. One of them was that you have to think about the unthinkable. Sometimes it happens. Another lesson was the difference between a pandemic and any other natural disaster. I spent weeks walking through shelters from evacuees from Katrina. It occupied Louisiana and Mississippi and a piece of Alabama.
But at least it was constrained to that area. A pandemic would be happening in all of the areas of the United States at the same time. People could not come from one region of the country to another region to help. They would be taking care of people in their own hometowns.
So the foundation of pandemic preparedness is community, and for that matter, household and family preparation.
BLITZER: Here's the criticism that's already coming into the federal government's proposals.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York: "This is an international problem that calls for a federal response. Pawning it off on the state and local government is not a solution."
What do you say to Senator Schumer?
LEAVITT: There is an important federal role, and we're playing it.
We're working to develop vaccines, we're developing stockpiles of antivirals. We're working to coordinate efforts between the state and local governments. We're working around the world to monitor it, and here at home. We're also developing communication plans.
There are things that the federal government has to do and will do, but there are also things that we wish we could do, but we can't, not because we have a lack of will or because we lack wallet; it's because there is no way that any government, state or federal, can respond to 5,000 different communities at the same time.
BLITZER: A lot of local and state governments are saying, fine, we'll help, but you've got to help us with the money.
Mary Selecky, the Washington state health secretary, said this on Thursday: "They gave us a list of work that they expect us to do, but they've only given us a little bit of one-time money. We need a sustained effort."
They're suggesting there simply is not enough money yet.
Dr. Irwin Redlander, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, said: "There is a disconnect between the rhetoric about what's needed and the resources on the table. This is the mother of all unfunded mandates." He says you're not giving them the money to go ahead and prepare.
LEAVITT: You know, the federal government did not mandate pandemics. This is a biologic fact of nature. It is a -- it's something that is fundamental to local public health. There is no more local need than public health. We're reaching out to help public and local communities do what is their fundamental responsibility.
We're going to meet the challenge of vaccines. Only the federal government can do that. We're going to help them develop stockpiles. We're going to take care of the borders. We're going to monitor around the world.
We're doing the things that the federal government can do, but we -- it's an absolute necessity that local communities prepare. It's a necessity that local families and households and churches and businesses and senior centers and anyone who is involved in dealing and managing people have a plan.
BLITZER: But will the president ask Congress for billions more for local communities, for the states and the local community governments to deal with this potential crisis?
LEAVITT: The president has asked Congress to appropriate $7.1 billion...
BLITZER: But they say that's not enough.
LEAVITT: I understand that.
And it's necessary that we do what is necessary, but it's also important that local communities do that. This is a -- we need to reach to not just health directors, but to city councilmen and state legislators and others and say to them, if your community is not adequately prepared, if you need some additional respirators, it's unreasonable to think that the federal government is going to supply everything for every community.
You may need to find -- if the city council thinks you're not well prepared, maybe the city council needs to begin looking at more respirators instead of remodeling the swimming pool. This is something we're all going to have to do.
The federal government will respond, and we're going to work diligently with the communities. I've now been in -- we've been in 49 of 57 state summits that we're going to be holding. We're holding them in the territories as well.
And we're saying to the local communities, we'll do our job, but any community that fails to prepare because of an expectation that the federal government will come in at the last minute and rescue them will be understating the impossibility of us going to every community at the same time.
This is a unique characteristic of a pandemic, and we cannot allow ourselves to be -- to fall to the fallacy that the federal government can do it all.
BLITZER: Secretary Leavitt, we'll leave it there.
Let's hope it never comes to fruition, God forbid, for all of us. But thanks for joining us.
And up next, eye on Iran. Should Israel launch a preemptive military strike? We'll have my conversation with the former prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.
That's next on "Late Edition."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from the CNN Center.
While tensions are still high among Israelis and Palestinians, Israel sees a potentially bigger threat from Iran, which is threatening to attack Israel if the United States attempts military strikes against Iran's nuclear program.
I recently spoke with the former prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. He is currently a Knesset opposition leader. We spoke about Iran and the war on terror.
BLITZER (on camera): Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for joining us.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, has flatly said, and I'll quote him. He said, "Israel must be wiped out from the map of the world, and God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism."
How seriously do you take these threats emanating from Iran?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Very seriously.
I read recently an interview with a Holocaust survivor in one of the European papers, and the interviewer asked him, "What's your main lesson from the Holocaust?" And he said, "My main lesson is that when somebody tells you that he's going to exterminate you, believe him."
Now, I believe the intentions of the president of Iran when he says he intends to wipe Israel off the map of the Earth. But I also know that it's not just Israel that he's threatening, but the entire free world.
Hitler threatened the Jews. Indeed, he was an enormous threat, as it turned out, an enormous catastrophe for the Jews, but he turned out to be a catastrophe for the entire world.
And I think Mr. Olmert, the current prime minister of Israel, was right when he called Ahmadinejad a latter-day Hitler, because they share the same fanaticism and the same mentality.
But if this regime will be armed with nuclear weapons, then the danger for the entire world will be enormous. BLITZER: So what -- at what point does Israel take a unilateral preemptive strike against Iran along the lines of what you did in 1981 against the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak? Is that even in the cards?
NETANYAHU: The difference between the -- 1981 and today is that at the time Israel was alone and indeed was, believe it or not, castigated by the international community for wiping out Saddam Hussein's nuclear bomb factory before it became operative. Today that is not the case.
I think there is a great awareness in Washington, in the United States, and indeed around many capitals that the arming of Iran with atomic bombs would endanger the entire world, would endanger not only Middle Eastern peace, but, you know, if people are worried about the oil prices today, wait until Iran has a nuclear umbrella from which it could carry out its designs to capture the Arabian Peninsula.
That would really push oil prices high. So I think there is an awareness, and there is an American-led international action. And I think everybody who wants to see peace in the world, everybody who wants to have sanity rule the world would support this American-led international effort.
And by the way, it would not necessarily be a military confrontation because it might not be necessary. If the world, the free world, unites around this American initiative, you probably won't have to use force because Iran would back off.
BLITZER: So the notion of an Israeli military strike, that's not in the cards, at least not now.
NETANYAHU: I think we all support the United States effort. I think that Israel is a very strong country, and Israel has known in the past and will know in the future how to defend itself. But we would all prefer to see a solution, -- if possible, a peaceful solution -- led by the American pressure on Iran to disarm or to discontinue its nuclear program.
BLITZER: You've spent a lot of time worrying about terror attacks against Israel. Osama bin Laden in that April 23 audiotape that came out, he said this. He said, "The blockade which the West is imposing on the government of Hamas proves that there is a Zionist, crusaders' war on Islam." How worried are you specifically about al Qaida threats against Israel as opposed to Hamas or Hezbollah?
NETANYAHU: Well, I'm worried. And I've spoken about it for quite some time. I'm worried that al Qaida will penetrate our region. It already has begun to do so in Jordan, in the Sinai and elsewhere in the Egyptian Sinai. It seeks to establish and has established cells in Gaza. Yes, al Qaida could out-Hamas Hamas.
That's the problem with these madmen. They each vie to be more extreme, more violent than the others. They all want to get rid of Israel, but merely because Israel is an extension of the free Western civilization that the United States is leading. They see us as an extension of the U.S. And in this sense, they're right.
But there's no reason why when they attack every other western position that they will not seek to attack Israel, and perhaps the greatest nightmare is that they will be able to bring the shoulder- fired missiles that they have already tried to use against an Israeli aircraft in Mombasa in Africa, against our civilian aircraft.
BLITZER: The former prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking with me earlier.
Still to come on "Late Edition," I'll speak live with Iraq's national security adviser in Baghdad. And don't forget our web question of the week: Are you worried about catching bird flu? Log on to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: And CNN reporters will be "On the Story." That's coming up for our North American viewers right after "Late Edition." That starts at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific. And there's much more ahead on our "Late Edition," including my conversation with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, about the strategy for securing his country from insurgents and ethnic violence. I'll speak with him live in Baghdad.
Plus, the fallout from CIA Director Porter Goss's unexpected resignation. A panel of intelligence experts weighs in on his departure, the potential impact on the agency. "Late Edition" continues right after this.
BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: This new government is going to represent a new start for the Iraqi people. It's a government that understands they've got serious challenges ahead of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Violence surges as a new government takes over in Iraq. Can the new leadership contain the insurgency and calm ethnic tensions? We'll ask Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al- Rubaie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOSS: I believe the agency is on a very even keel, sailing well. I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Shake-up at the CIA. How will the resignation of Porter Goss affect U.S. intelligence? And where does the agency go from here? We'll get perspective from our expert panel: Former CIA acting director John McLaughlin, former Homeland Security Adviser Richard Falkenrath, and former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Clark Kent Ervin.
And welcome back. We'll go live to Baghdad and speak with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, in just a few moments. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now with Fredricka Whitfield joining us -- Fred.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred.
Let's go to Iraq right now, a country that's facing the dangerous challenge of a relentless insurgency and widespread sectarian violence. In the past 24 hours alone, there have been three car bombings and the discovery of 43 bodies. CNN's Ryan Chilcote is joining us now from the Iraqi capital with the latest details. Ryan, what's going on?
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you say, a total of three car bombings in Iraq today, the first two right here in Baghdad, those insurgent attacks targeting Iraq's security forces, one of them targeting an Iraqi military convoy as it was making its way onto a military base. A suicide bomber blowing himself up in a car. He was able to get close enough to the convoy to kill eight and wound another 15.
Then, the police tell us there was an attack on one of their convoys. However, it missed their vehicles, instead killing one Iraqi civilian, wounding another five.
Then in the city, the Shia city of Karbala, an apparent sectarian attack there, a suicide bomber blowing himself up in a commercial, a very crowded commercial area.
This is the first day of the week here in Iraq. There were a lot of people out on the streets. That attack killing five, wounding 18.
All of this, Wolf, on top of some really gruesome discoveries. A total of 43 bodies found over the last 24 hours here in the Iraqi capital. Most of these people showing signs of torture, many of them still in handcuffs. Police tell us that they believe most of them were the victims of sectarian killings -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, Ryan, were they victims of Sunnis or Shiites? Were most of these 43 bodies Sunni or Shia?
CHILCOTE: Sometimes, they can tell right away. In this case, they could not. It's very difficult, actually, to tell. They have to have identity cards of be wearing clothing that associates them with one sect or another. Today, the police just couldn't say -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ryan Chilcote in Baghdad for us, thank you very much.
And joining us now, also in Baghdad, to talk about Iraq's new government, as well as plans for countering the country's deadly violence is Iraq's national security adviser, Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie.
Dr. Al-Rubaie, welcome back to "Late Edition."
It sounds like the violence is continuing full speed ahead, despite the efforts to forge a new government. What's going on?
MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQ'S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, in general, the violence is getting lower and lower, and I think it's (inaudible). If you look to the country in general, you will see that there are probably more than 80 percent of the country is secure, and people are going to their jobs, normally, while some pockets in Baghdad, some neighborhoods in Baghdad, are troublesome and hot spots. Otherwise, the rest of the capital is stable and secure.
BLITZER: Well, you say that, but the Los Angeles Times today writes this in a dispatch from Iraq. "More Iraqi civilians were killed in Baghdad during the first three months of this year than at any time since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, at least 3,800, many of them found hogtied and shot execution style. Targeted killings now account for most of the violence."
It's 3,800 people killed in the first three months of this year alone, more that any time since the war started three years ago. It doesn't sound like it's getting any better.
AL-RUBAIE: Well, the violence has got worse after the blowing up of the Golden Mosque in Samarra in the middle of February, and following that, there was a surge and spike of a number of violence between -- well, sectarian-motivated violence between the Shia and Sunnis. And because of the call from the political leaders, from the religious leaders, from everybody in the country, I think we are back to the -- almost to the same level as before the Golden Mosque explosion.
BLITZER: When will the designated new prime minister, Nouri al- Maliki, be able to form his coalition government?
AL-RUBAIE: I think he's putting his final touches on the new cabinet, and it's going to be an inclusive cabinet, and it's going to be including strong, meaningful representative from -- representation from the Sunni community, and this will definitely undermine the insurgency and their claim that they're not represented in the government.
We believe that this is going to be a national unity government, whereby everybody's going to be represented, all Shia, Sunnis, Caldo- Assyrians, and Turkomans, Arab, Kurds -- everybody's going to be represented in this national unity government, and this is going to last for another four years. And the top priorities for this national unity government is security, economy, stimulation of economy, and also providing services to our people.
BLITZER: Will it happen, this new government, in the next few days, or do you think he needs several more weeks?
AL-RUBAIE: I don't think we are talking about weeks. I think we are talking about a few days.
BLITZER: Here's what the Los Angeles Times also reported today about his efforts to put together a new government, Nouri al-Maliki. Los Angeles Times writes this: "Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni lawmaker, said the main blocs had all but given up on the idea of appointing competent technocrats to key posts, and were instead determined to abide by a sectarian spoils system. Even if the new cabinet wins approval, he predicted the government won't last long under the parliamentary system now in place. 'I don't think it will bring stability to Iraq,' he said. 'I am not optimistic about this."
Saleh Mutlak, do you know him? Is he credible?
AL-RUBAIE: I know him, and he's a credible person. And I think easy said, difficult to do. Though we would love to have Saleh Mutlak included in the government, and I think he would contribute a great deal to the government. If not, then he can stay in the Council of Representatives to represent his own -- the community who has elected him for the Council of Representatives, and he's -- I think he's a nationalist, and he's working towards unified Iraq. And we will work with him, whether it is in the Council of Representatives, or if he wants to come to the government.
BLITZER: Will the new prime minister take steps in the immediate days after he puts together his new government to disband the Shiite, the Kurdish, the Sunni militias that seem to be growing in strength right now, as opposed to weakening in strength?
AL-RUBAIE: This is the top priority of this government. I think the prime minister-designate Maliki has already mentioned that on the militia, disbandment and dissolution and the reintegration of the militia within the security forces, within the government department, within the society, and within even the private sector, helping them and sending them to vocational training schemes.
Or others, we will send them to have pension, to retirement. Those who cannot serve the government or they cannot serve even the private sector, we can send them to a home, we thank you very much for everything they have done in the past in helping liberating Iraq from the -- one of the worst dictatorships in the history of mankind.
BLITZER: In that same Los Angeles Times dispatch from Baghdad, though, there's skepticism on this issue. I'll read it to you.
"Maliki's own political coalition is supported by two Shiite militias, the Iranian-trained Badr Brigade and radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army. Even the country's U.S. friendly Kurdish president appears unwilling to lay down arms. On Sunday, Jalal Talabani speaking to reporters in Irbil defended the 70,000-strong Kurdish Peshmerga militia as, quote, 'a regulated force.'"
There's skepticism in those words that Maliki isn't going to do anything to try to disband these coalitions since he depends on them for political support, especially the Shiite militia.
AL-RUBAIE: Well, all the militia leaders in this country have agreed to a law which is -- which will basically make the old militias go to be disbanded and transition, if you like, and reintegrated into the Iraqi government or Iraqi security forces.
But those who -- I mean, all militia leaders have agreed to do so. And I cannot believe that they're going to go back with their work. And if we have to, there is no way we will build this democratic, federal, united Iraq with the militia around.
Democracy and militia are two incompatible things.
BLITZER: The influential U.S. senator, Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had an intriguing article with Les Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations in The New York Times this week.
Let me read to you a paragraph from the article. "The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group, Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab, room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests. We could drive this in place with irresistible sweeteners for the Sunnis to join in, a plan designed by the military for withdrawing and redeploying American forces, and a regional nonaggression pact." Is Biden right when he suggests that Iraq effectively should be sort of divided up into these three sectors?
AL-RUBAIE: I don't think Senator Biden has said that Iraq should be divided into three sections.
What I think -- and I can't agree more with Senator Biden and his article, and I think he is a very well-informed person.
What we are talking here -- and he's talking about Iraqi constitution. The constitution of Iraq has said very clearly that you can form provinces, regions, federal -- this is a democratic federal system, and any two or three or nine or 10 provinces can get together and form a region, and form a federal unit.
And this is exactly what Joseph Biden is saying, or I believe when I read his article.
BLITZER: So you think it's a good idea, that Biden has a good idea?
AL-RUBAIE: I think Biden's idea is a good idea, with some modification because it's very compatible with our permanent constitution, which was ratified on the 15th of October last year.
BLITZER: The New York Times suggests that it basically is in effect almost already. Listen to what it wrote on April 30th.
"In casual discussions, Iraqis already expressed the view that their country will be split three ways, with a Kurdish state in the north, a Sunni one in the west, and a Shiite one in the south. The Tigris River would form the border where the new Sunni and Shiite states would meet in central Baghdad, and the capital's mixed Sunni- Shiite neighborhoods would be cleansed on each side of the border."
That sounds like it's already beginning to happen automatically, if that dispatch in The New York Times is accurate.
AL-RUBAIE: Well, Wolf, that I do not agree on.
I don't think separating the country is a good idea. I think this is a unified country. This is a country which has been around for the last 5,000 years. This is the cradle of civilization.
We've lived together, Shia, Sunnis and Kurds, we've lived together for thousands of years and I don't think this is a good idea of splitting the country. This is a very -- we need to build a new Iraqism, a new national identity for Iraq.
This is a new Iraq based on a democratic, parliamentary, constitutional system, federal system. It has to be completely decentralized, and give decentralized region to run their own affairs with the exception of defense and foreign affairs, and a few other things.
And otherwise, this has been -- what's been said -- what I have been saying is compatible and it's been mentioned in detail in our constitution which was ratified last year.
BLITZER: Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, says one of the great motivations of the insurgency, the largely Sunni insurgency, is fear of Iran. Listen to what he said on Tuesday to Al Hurrah.
He said, "The insurgents do not think that the Americans are the main enemy. They feel threatened by what they call the Iranian threat."
I know that Nouri al-Maliki and many of the other Shiite leaders spent time in Iran in exile, they're close to the Iranian regime. How worried should Iraqi Sunnis be about the emerging relationship between the new Iraqi government and the government in Tehran?
AL-RUBAIE: The insurgents in Iraq and the terrorists in Iraq are being helped by -- they are being helped ideologically, funding, as well as arms by our neighbors, certainly not Iran in this case.
We've seen these suicide bombers coming across the borders from Syria. We see them of Saudi origin, we see them of Egyptian origin coming from Algeria, crossing the borders from Syria. We have not seen, and we have no material, irrevocable proof, if you like, that these people are being trained or being equipped or funded or given even ideology from Iran.
BLITZER: Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser in Iraq, thanks for joining us from Baghdad. Good luck to you, good luck to all the people of Iraq.
AL-RUBAIE: Thank you very much. Thank you very much indeed for having me, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: OK. Our pleasure.
And just ahead, the CIA surprise. We'll get perspective on what outgoing director Porter Goss's unexpected departure means for the agency's future.
Plus, new images of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, insight on what they tell us about one of the world's most wanted men. Our panel of intelligence experts standing by.
And later, "In Case You Missed It." We'll give you the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.
You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
BLITZER: There's still time for you to weigh in on our Web question of the week: Are you worried about catching bird flu? You can cast your vote. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. The results at the end of the program.
Straight ahead, we'll assess the state of the war on terror and the U.S. national security implications with the former deputy CIA director, John McLaughlin, the former White House homeland security adviser Richard Falkenrath, and the former Homeland Security Department inspector general, Clark Kent Irvin. They're all standing by.
You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition, where he's helped this agency become integrated into the intelligence community. And that was a tough job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush accepting CIA Director Porter Goss's surprise resignation on Friday. Welcome back to "Late Edition." Joining us now from Washington with their assessments of the Goss announcement and more are three CNN security analysts. The former CIA deputy director, John McLaughlin. The former deputy White House homeland security adviser, Richard Falkenrath and the former Department of Homeland Security inspector general, Clark Kent Ervin. He's also the author of an important new book that has just come out entitled, "Open Target: Where America is Vulnerable to Terrorism."
Gentlemen, welcome back to "Late Edition." And John McLaughlin, I'll start with you. Some surprising criticism we're hearing already this morning from some key Republicans, including the chairman of the House intelligence committee, that General Michael Hayden, who's apparently going to be nominated by the president tomorrow to be the next CIA director, may not necessarily be the best person for this job, given the fact he's active-duty U.S. military. Is this a problem?
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN ANALYST: Well, Wolf, six of the 19 directors of CIA have been active-duty military officers, and I think General Hayden can be an effective CIA director. It will be very important, though, that he have a deputy who is a civilian, and who is steeped in the culture of the business, and very familiar with what CIA does day-to-day.
It might also be important at some point for General Hayden to consider retiring and becoming a civilian or certainly wearing a suit rather than a uniform at the CIA.
BLITZER: That was Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the intelligence committee, said to me in the last hour here on "Late Edition," it might be a good idea if he wants to retire and become a civilian. But let me press you, John McLaughlin, on this issue. As a military officer, a four-star U.S. Air force general, would he have the ability to stand up to a civilian political leader like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, if there's a disagreement between what the intelligence community at the Pentagon is saying as opposed to the intelligence community at the CIA?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, General Hayden has butted heads with the secretary of defense before. So he's no stranger to controversy with Don Rumsfeld. At the end of the day, though, it is in this structure more the responsibility of John Negroponte to deal with the secretary of defense. The director of the CIA in this structure has to focus on managing that agency.
BLITZER: Richard Falkenrath, what's your assessment?
RICHARD FALKENRATH, CNN ANALYST: I don't think it's that big a deal that he's still in uniform. This is in all likelihood his last job in government. He will last at least as long as Secretary Rumsfeld, maybe longer, into the next administration. I think he'll do fine. He may want to retire for his own reasons, but he will be able to do the job.
BLITZER: And what do you think, Clark Kent Ervin?
CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN ANALYST: Well, I don't think it's going to be a confirmation problem, but I do think it's a political problem. After all, the Pentagon controls the lion's share of the intelligence community's budget. There's no better in-fighter in government than Secretary Rumsfeld, and General Hayden's very mild-mannered. Wonder whether he has the personality to stand up to Secretary Rumsfeld.
MCLAUGHLIN: Wolf, let me clear about one thing. While I think General Hayden can be an effective CIA director, Clark makes an important point. One of the unique features of the CIA, which everyone tends to forget, is that it's the only one of these agencies that is not tethered in some way to a department that makes or implements policy. So an important characteristic of the CIA to preserve, which General Hayden would have to preserve, is that non- political, objective quality that comes from that identity.
BLITZER: From everything I've learned about General Hayden, John McLaughlin, is that his background was really in electronic intelligence, as director of the National Security Agency, the super- secret spy organization that eavesdrops, and we'll get into that in a moment. What experience does he have in running clandestine officers?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's one reason why I think he would need a very experienced deputy who has experience in running human intelligence operations, and there are plenty of people that he could turn to for that assistance. Second, I would say that the kind of signals intelligence that General Hayden has been responsible for in this modern technological era has quite a bit of interaction with human intelligence operations.
In other words, he is not someone who has never had any contact with human intelligence operations. Frequently, those kinds of operations are important to facilitating the collection of signals intelligence.
BLITZER: Richard Falkenrath, Senator Roberts, who was on the show in the last hour, he issued a statement after the resignation Friday of Porter Goss saying, "Porter made some significant improvements at the CIA, but I think even he would say they still have some way to go." There's lots of analysis going on in the U.S. media that Porter Goss was a disaster as CIA director. Is that overhyped? Is that going too far?
FALKENRATH: Well, there's almost no one in town or familiar with this community who thinks he did a good job. He had the misfortune of being in office during the most rapid positional decline that any office has seen in the history of the U.S. national security community.
He went from being the director of central intelligence with oversight of the entire community to being the head of essentially one agency. And he compounded that misfortune, I think, with a rather ham-handed handling of internal issues, an admission that he was overwhelmed by the workload, and I think a lack of proficiency in briefing the president.
BLITZER: And the argument, Richard Falkenrath, is that he brought in a bunch of congressional staffers who worked with him when he was the chairman of the House intelligence committee, that were way over their heads and simply didn't know how to operate within that CIA community.
FALKENRATH: And virtually everyone agrees with that assessment, Wolf, that he should not have brought the congressional staffers with him.
MCLAUGHLIN: But Wolf, there's a broader significance to this as well. If it is true, as I suspect it is, that there were policy disagreements here between Negroponte and Porter Goss, what this shows is that a year after the most major restructuring of the intelligence community in our history, people are still struggling over roles and responsibilities, who works for whom, who is in charge of what and so forth. This is a dangerous moment for our country, I think, to have that kind of confusion in the intelligence business.
BLITZER: Clark Kent Ervin, the CIA, the U.S. intelligence community's job is to make sure the U.S. knows what's going on as far as threats are concerned, terror threats. They're really on the front line in getting this information. There have been some significant failures in recent years. There's also been some significant successes.
Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, issued a statement on Friday that said this: "In the last year and a half, more than 300 years of experience has either been pushed out or walked out the door in frustration. This has left the agency in free-fall."
Based on the book that you've just written, everything you know about the war on terror, is that accurate that the CIA is in free-fall right now?
ERVIN: I think that is accurate, Wolf. You know, Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We reorganized all of our homeland security-related agencies and put them in one department, thinking they would better cooperate and be more effective.
That's obviously not the case. We did the same thing with the intelligence community. You know, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency used to be at least nominally the head of the intelligence community, and yet we have this new creation, the office of the director of national intelligence, that really is, essentially replicated what existed in the law beforehand. And he's also creating a mini CIA. So, rather than taking the government we have and making it work, we continually reorganize government and expect it to be better simply because there's new organization.
BLITZER: Was that a mistake, Clark?
ERVIN: I think it was a mistake, and I'm particularly concerned about the impact on homeland security. The Department of Homeland Security was to be the principle intelligence agency with regard to threats against the homeland. It was supposed to consolidate terrorist watch lists.
The former job is now being done by the CIA-led National Counterterrorism Center. The latter job by the FBI-led Terrorist Screening Center. So, the next time there's indication of a terror attack against the homeland, the Department of Homeland Security may be the last agency in government to know about it.
BLITZER: We're going to pick up that thought in a moment, gentlemen, but we have to take a quick break.
We'll continue our discussion with our intelligence and security panel. Lots more coming up on that.
Also ahead, we'll have a quick check of what's in the news right now, including new warnings from Iran about its nuclear program.
Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition."
We're reporting today from the CNN Center. And we're getting special insight on the U.S. intelligence community, the national security situation, the overall war on terror from our three CNN analysts, the former deputy CIA director John McLaughlin, former deputy White House homeland security adviser Richard Falkenrath, and former Department of Homeland Security inspector general Clark Kent Ervin.
John McLaughlin, how demoralized were your former colleagues at the CIA by the introduction of several controversial staffers that Porter Goss brought in, especially the executive director, the number three official at the CIA, Dusty Foggo, who's now being investigated apparently for some links to a scandal involving now convicted Congressman Duke Cunningham?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, of course that's under investigation, and I wouldn't say anything about that particular case.
But I would say that the arrival of staff members who had formerly been congressional staff members was probably not a good step, in that they were not able to help that director connect very well with the agency. And they also were people who, during their time in Congress, had authored reports very critical of the CIA, critical in ways that most people at CIA would have disputed, including on issues of counterterrorism, where I think most people at CIA would say the major victories in counterterrorism over the last four years have come through CIA action.
So it left a bad taste in people's mouths at the outset.
BLITZER: Richard Falkenrath, you served in the Bush administration on the National Security Council staff at the White House. There is a sense out there among many conservatives that the CIA is filled with a bunch of liberal anti-Bush analysts, who spend all day basically leaking anti-Bush information to the news media.
Is that a fair assessment of what's going on?
FALKENRATH: No, I don't think it's a fair assessment.
There probably are such people with that view, but it certainly wasn't my view in the White House and most of my former colleagues there I don't think hold that view. You know, the CIA, if you anger it, if you cross it, they can do a lot of harm to a president. There's no question that disgruntled former or current officials can make very damaging leaks if they wish to, but I think that's the exception, not the norm.
And, you know, the president holds the CIA in very high esteem personally. He relies on it very heavily himself. He always wanted, and when I was there, a personal, direct connection to the directors of the CIA.
And I think this thing that happened with Goss this week happened more with more sorrow than anger for him, and he really wishes it had worked out better.
BLITZER: Let's move on to the war on terror unless, John McLaughlin, you want to add a point.
MCLAUGHLIN: I just want to add one point.
That accusation that you laid out there, Wolf, is part of what I would call as a CIA veteran a kind of punitive approach to the CIA, which has characterized a lot of the things that have been done in the name of reorganization and restructuring over the last year. And people at CIA feel that pretty deeply.
I think Rich is exactly right. It's not out to get anyone in this country. It's certainly out to get some bad guys around the world.
BLITZER: Clark Kent Ervin, let's talk about the war on terror.
You write a provocative article in today's Washington Post, and I'm going to quote a few words from it. "The bad news is that the hardening of these targets has increased the appeal of shopping malls, sports arenas, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, housing complexes and other soft targets that remain relatively unprotected against terrorist attacks. It is a marvel that terrorists haven't already struck soft targets in the United States."
I was chilled when I read your piece this morning, and I know it's part of a bigger theme in your new book entitled "Open Target."
But talk a little bit about how worried are you that Al Qaida or other terrorists might launch these strikes against the so-called soft targets in the United States.
ERVIN: I'm concerned about that, Wolf.
It's a paradox I was trying to explain, and that is, to be fair to the Department of Homeland Security, we have made some strides in aviation security, port security, mass transit, et cetera, over the course of the last three and a half years, the last five years, since 9/11 -- not enough, in my view, but we've made some progress.
The result of that, though, it seems to me is to make what I'd call soft targets, restaurants, night clubs, et cetera, as you laid out, more appealing to terrorists.
That said, all the intelligence seems to indicate that Al Qaida at least wants the next attack to be at least as spectacular as the last one and likely even more so. But there's always the potential to strike the softer target because it's so easy to do.
And since it's never been done in our country, by the way, the psychic impact of it, even if the loss of life were small, the economic damage were small, the psychic impact would be huge because it would show that every American, wherever you live, wherever you are is equally at risk of a terror attack.
BLITZER: What do you think, Richard Falkenrath, about the vulnerability of soft targets to that kind of threat here in the United States?
FALKENRATH: Well, they are very vulnerable.
There's essentially an infinite number of small targets in the United States. And if we as a federal government were to try to protect them all, all the time, we would surely fail.
And so what we need to do is focus on the genuinely catastrophic targets, the ones which if attacked could cause thousands or tens of thousands of secondary casualties, and to stay on the offensive against the individuals that might carry out these attacks in the first place.
There's no way Washington can as a matter of policy or program protect all the soft targets in America.
BLITZER: Here's what the State Department's report on terrorism that was just released, John McLaughlin, wrote about the terrorism threat.
"Overall, we are still in the first phase of a potentially long war. The enemy's proven ability to adopt means will probably go through several more cycles of action, reaction, before the war's outcome is no longer in doubt. It is likely that we will face a resilient enemy for years to come."
Question to you, is Al Qaida getting stronger or weaker? How much of a threat is it really to the United States nearly five years after 9/11?
MCLAUGHLIN: I think, Wolf, it's stronger in some ways and weaker in others.
The ways in which it's weaker are that its central apparatus is back on its heels, having trouble communicating, having trouble with money -- remember Zawahiri asking Zarqawi for $150,000 -- and less able to plan at a central point operations of magnitude that we've known in the past.
On the other hand, it's stronger in the sense that the movement has metastasized, it has gone now out around the world into smaller units, manned by locals. This is the pattern we see in London, Madrid, Casablanca, Istanbul, Bali and so forth.
And it is now more about the Internet and ideology than about hierarchy and geography.
And so in that sense we will need -- there is no unilateral solution to this problem. We will need for years to come very tight, cooperative, committed relationships with countries around the world on a military level, the intelligence level, the diplomatic level in order to bring this to a conclusion, which might be the reduction of these forces to a nuisance level.
We'll never stamp them out completely.
BLITZER: Clark Kent Ervin, here's another line from that same State Department report. "Terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaida are the smallest yet most lethal group and pose the most immediate threat. They are responsible for the most horrific events like kidnappings, beheadings and suicide attacks specifically aimed at intimidating the public."
This falls in line with what John McLaughlin just said and falls in line with what you've just written your book about.
ERVIN: That's right.
I mean, I think the major point to make here is that Al Qaida, in particular, is absolutely resolute. They're absolutely determined to strike America again. It's only a question of when they will next attempt to do so.
On the other hand, on the other side of the ledger, we in our American government have, it seems to me, dragged our feet.
For example, just a week ago or so, Secretary Chertoff announced plans to start checking the names of port workers in this country against the terrorist watchlist. That's a great idea.
But why are we doing that only now, nearly five years after 9/11, three and a half years after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and a year and a half into his tenure?
We're not taking the threat of terrorism seriously enough it seems to me.
BLITZER: What do you think -- I want you to button it up for us, Richard Falkenrath.
FALKENRATH: Well, I think the State Department is right, this is a long struggle. They have pointed out, as John just did, that a central Al Qaida has been dismantled.
There are at least two pieces of good news, I think though, buried in the data in that report. The first is the Muslim population in the United States is not highly militant. It doesn't seem to be the place where terrorists and other militants are coming from. And second, most of the activity that we've seen, the terrorist activity we've seen is happening elsewhere, it's far away and they seem to be having difficulty penetrating the U.S. homeland as they did on 9/11.
Now, we can't be complacent about that and we need to stay on the offensive in the way John outlined, but there is some good news buried inside that report when you read it closely.
BLITZER: But if there's turbulence in the U.S. intelligence community, that certainly is going to undermine the overall U.S. effort, that's why this shake up in what's going on in Washington right now is so critical.
Unfortunately, guys, we have to leave it right there, but I want to thank John McLaughlin, Richard Falkenrath and Clark Kent Ervin for joining us.
And one note, Clark Kent Ervin's new book entitled "Open Target: Where America is Vulnerable to Attack" is now out and I think our viewers will be anxious to buy it. Must reading, critical reading if you're interested in dealing with this war on terrorism.
Thanks to all of you.
And coming up next, "In Case You Missed It," highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. Stay with us.
BLITZER: And now "In Case You Missed It."
Let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States. Topic A was the resignation of CIA Director Porter Goss, his apparent replacement, General Michael Hayden and the state of the spy agency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Porter Goss took what has been a well documented broken agency and was moving it in the right direction. He got rid of the folks who had been in key positions when major failures occurred in our intelligence community and, unfortunately, for that he came under a lot of criticism.
U.S. SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D-CA): We were pretty good at KGB versus CIA. But when it comes to the shadowy world of terror, when it comes to a culture about which we know little and have difficulty permeating, I think the agency has a long way to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REP. PETE HOEKSTRA, (R-MI): There is ongoing tensions between this premier civilian intelligence agency and DoD, as we speak. And I think putting a general in charge, regardless of how good Mike is, putting a general in charge is going to send the wrong signal through the agency here in Washington, but also to our agents in the field.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ): General Hayden is really more of an intelligence person than he is an Air Force officer. As you know, his career has been spent in that area, and his background -- of course, he comes from the NSA. I think that we should also remember that there have been other former military people who have been directors of the CIA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA): I don't see how you have a four- star general heading up the CIA. There has to be more people that can be drawn upon. These people are all just this little clique. They play "Musical Chairs." They're all far too close to the president politically. And I think that the confidence that everyone needs in the CIA would be better instilled if we had someone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows, seen here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
Up next, the results of our web question of the week: Are you worried about catching bird flu? And coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers, CNN reporters are "On the Story," including our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, with details on how the Porter Goss resignation unfolded. All that and more on "On the Story," coming up right at the top of the hour. But first, this.
BLITZER: Nouri al-Maliki, what's his story? Al-Maliki is Iraq's new prime minister-designate, nominated by the country's Shiite alliance to break a political stalemate with Sunni and Kurdish leaders. A key figure in the armed Shia underground resistance during Saddam Hussein's regime, al-Maliki fled Iraq in 1980, finding refuge in nearby Syria.
He returned to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion and helped draft the country's new constitution. A vocal critic of attacks on Iraq's Shia community, as well as some of the tactics used by U.S. troops to stamp out the Sunni-led insurgency, al-Maliki says he envisions a pluralistic Iraq, where his country's various ethnic groups regard each other as equals. Anna Nicole Smith, what's her story? The former Playboy Playmate won a unanimous ruling from the United States Supreme Court this week, giving the Texas widow a new chance to try and collect millions of dollars she claims her late husband promised her. The justices overturned a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals that found she was entitled to nothing because the California federal court which had ruled in her favor lacked jurisdiction.
Smith is embroiled in a long-running battle with her late husband's son over nearly $500 million of the oil tycoon's estate. Lawyers predict a final settlement could take years.
BLITZER: Our "Late Edition" web question asked, "Are you worried about catching bird flu?" Here's how you voted. Twenty-eight percent said yes. Seventy-two percent said no. Not a scientific poll.
Quick look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Newsweek examines AIDS at 25. Time has new insights into the hidden world of autism. And U.S. News and World Report explores the mystery of dreams.
That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer from the CNN Center. Thanks for joining us.
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