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Interview With Pervez Musharraf; Interview With John Boehner

Aired December 9, 2007 - 11:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 9:00 p.m. in Islamabad. Wherever you are watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "Late Edition."
Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, caused a worldwide uproar last month when he declared a state of emergency that included suspending the country's constitution. Musharraf said at the time that the move was an effort to limit terrorist attacks. But is Pakistan making any headway against Al Qaida and other hardline Islamist groups? And what about the state of democracy in Pakistan right now?

I interviewed President Musharraf this weekend. He joined me from Islamabad.


BLITZER: President Musharraf, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition." We have a lot to talk about and I want to begin first of all with President Bush. I had a chance over the past week or so to interview him at the White House.

He was very complimentary to you. Among other things, he said you have done a lot for Pakistan's democracy. He also said you have "been an absolute reliable partner in dealing with extremists and radicals."

At the same time, though, we had this exchange and I want to play the clip for you and we'll talk about it. Listen to what I asked him and how he responded.


BLITZER: September, when we spoke up in New York -- you were there for the U.N. General Assembly -- you told me that absolutely -- that was your word -- you would authorize U.S. troops to go into Pakistan if you had actionable intelligence on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts or other top ranking Al Qaida members.

Is that still your position?


BLITZER: Hasn't changed?

BUSH: No, hasn't changed.


BLITZER: All right. So the president of the United States reiterating that if he had actionable intelligence, he would authorize U.S. forces to go into your country, into Pakistan, to capture or kill Osama bin Laden or other top Al Qaida leaders. Is that OK with you?

MUSHARRAF: Well, first of all, I appreciate whatever compliments he's given me. He's a great friend and I really consider him a great friend, a great personal friend, so I am thankful and grateful to him for all his complimentary remarks.

But on Osama bin Laden, when he says, if there is "actionable" intelligence and he would assist -- that's the word he used. He would like to assist Pakistan.

BLITZER: No, he didn't say that.


BLITZER: He said he would authorize U.S. forces to go into Pakistan with or without your permission to capture or kill bin Laden.

MUSHARRAF: OK. Frankly, I don't agree with that. I don't agree with that. We will -- whatever intelligence we get on the terrorists, we jointly think of what kind of action is possible and whatever assistance we can get.

But it is the Pakistan forces who act, and I would continue with this arrangement that in Pakistan, it is Pakistan's forces which will act. If we need any kind of assistance, it is -- the prerogative must remain with Pakistan.

BLITZER: As you know, though, President Musharraf, there are some analysts here in Washington, and elsewhere in European communities, who suggests that there are elements within your Intelligence Service, within your military, who may be sympathetic to Al Qaida and the Taliban and as a result, could not necessarily could be completely trusted.

Do you want to respond to that criticism that is often made?

MUSHARRAF: I think I take a very serious exception to this criticism which is going on in the Western media and Western press and some individuals who don't understand Pakistan's army and Pakistani intelligence.

I take very serious exception to it. We are suffering here and if these elements in the Pakistan army are -- of the Pakistan army, they know how much we have suffered. They know that we have suffered about 1,000 casualties and the hands of these very terrorists. So I can't even imagine one person to be sympathetic towards a person who is killing their own brothers in arms.

And as far as the intelligence is concerned, it is our intelligence which has got hold of each and every terrorist either killed or eliminated or arrested. There hasn't been even one arrest in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Do you believe you are any closer to finding bin Laden or his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which a lot of analysts suspect that's where they are hiding out?

MUSHARRAF: Yes. That is a possibility. I have been saying all along the possibility that he may be on -- somewhere on the border. I've been saying that he may in the border in Bajaur area, because there in the Kunar province of Afghanistan, there were no forces. American or coalition forces were not involved at all in Kunar province which was bordering Bajaur agency.

Now they are operating, but that is the area where we thought he may be. But, however, we don't know his location. We are trying our best to locate them.

However, I would like to say again, there is a total intelligence cooperation here and I have been saying many times, intelligence is divided into human intelligence, it has technical intelligence and then there is an aerial surveillance going on.

The aerial surveillance and technical intelligence are -- more capability is with the United States. It is the human intelligence which is Pakistan. So if there has been a failure in intelligence, it is the combined failure of U.S. and Pakistani intelligence.

But there is no failure. After all, I know this terrain, I know that it is inhospitable terrain, I know there is no communication infrastructure and I know that there are people who sympathize with them. So therefore it's not that easy.

It's just like Mullah Omar in Afghanistan. Why don't we get him? There are people sympathetic and the terrain is hostile and also there is no communication infrastructure for people to reach out.

So therefore, whoever criticizes the achievements of the forces on ground, whether it is coalition forces in Afghanistan or Pakistan forces in Pakistan side, they don't understand ground realities and they don't understand how these -- in what conditions these forces operate.

BLITZER: All right. Here...

MUSHARRAF: So I think while we are committed to -- sorry?

BLITZER: I was going to say, Mr. President -- excuse me for interrupting. Let me read to you what the U.S. intelligence community's National Intelligence Estimate back in July said.

It said these words precisely: quote, "We assess Al Qaida has protected or regenerated key elements of its homeland attack capability, including a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally- Administered Tribal Areas. operational lieutenants and its top leadership."

And British intelligence believes that the Al Qaida core leadership is in Pakistan in those Federally-Administered Tribal Areas. Just very -- as a matter of fact, do you believe that as well?

MUSHARRAF: Well, I don't -- I will not reject it. I will not accept it. The point is, I would like to ask whoever has said this, give me the proof. What proof do they have? Nil. Zero proof. They are just talking. It is just a guess. So I don't want to make such wild guesses.

It is their guess that they may be in the FATA. They can be anywhere. But do they have any proof? Do they have any intelligence to substantiate whatever they are saying? No, sir, they don't.

Let me challenge them. Give me the intelligence. What is your judgment based on? Is it just based on the fact that there is Al Qaida in our mountains? Yes, indeed they are there. I have been saying it all along.

But what is the confirmation that al-Zawahiri or Osama bin Laden are in Pakistan? If Mullah Omar can be in Afghanistan, why can't they be there?

BLITZER: I interviewed the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, at the end of the summer on "Late Edition," and he suggested the problems they were facing in Afghanistan were at least in large measure the result of foreign fighters crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan. He told me this. I'll play a little excerpt of that interview. Listen to this.


HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: The security situation in Afghanistan over the past two years has definitely deteriorated. There is do doubt about that. There are more foreign terrorist elements entering Afghanistan and causing all sorts of troubles.


BLITZER: All right. Do you want to respond to President Hamid Karzai?

MUSHARRAF: No. Don't get me into a confrontation with President Karzai. I don't want to do that.

However, it is an old tape you played. I think we have had good understanding now and I would like to say, yes, since he has said that and you are asking me for comments, the problem in Pakistan in the FATA or in the whole of Pakistan on the issue of terrorism and extremism is an import from Afghanistan.

It is an import on whatever happened in Afghanistan over the last 30 years. It is not an export from Pakistan into Afghanistan, it is an important from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Now, talking on (ph) the current situation in Afghanistan, certainly the Taliban who are fighting there are indigenous. But they get support from Pakistan. Whatever is happening in Afghanistan cannot be done or achieved by a few couple of hundred people or even thousands of people. It has to be hundreds of thousands of people who give support to those who are fighting, and they are the locals in Afghanistan. Let that not be mistaken.

I know about guerrilla warfare, I have been trained in that. And no guerrilla warfare can survive unless the population is with them so therefore the population, the entire population of wherever this activity is taking place is involved, and that is the Afghan local population. They may get support from Pakistan, they may come into Pakistan and get some sanctuaries here, hide here, recuperate here and go back. But the real support, the real backbone of everything that is happening there is in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan.


BLITZER: When we come back, more of my interview with President Musharraf. We'll speak about the upcoming election scheduled for next month. He's fighting back against political rivals who claim the voting will be rigged. You're going to want to see part two of this exclusive interview. Then, the House Republican leader John Boehner standing by to join us on why the United States Congress can't seem to get a whole lot done right now.

You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

MUSHARRAF: So now that we have done everything, we haven't even gone for elections and they are talking of rigging and everything. This is a clear indication of their preparation for defeat. Now when they lose, they'll have a good rationale, that it is all rigged, it is all fraud. This is what they do always, in Pakistan the loser always cries, and that is an unfortunate part.

I think they should gracefully participate in the election and then gracefully accept defeat if any one of them gets defeated. We will congratulate anyone who does win.

BLITZER: So, President Musharraf, will they, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, the two former prime ministers, will they be allowed to run in the elections on January 8?

MUSHARRAF: Wolf, I just want to comment that unfortunately, the West and the media in the West and a lot of people, they appear to be thinking that in the developing country there is no law, and there is all dictatorship. Somebody at the head just passes orders and things moved like that. There's a system functioning here.

Now, in Pakistan, we must know that there is a legal system functioning. There is an election commission, and there are set procedures for submitting of petitions against any candidate, and there is a very set procedure of considering those petitions and taking legal decisions. And I am not in charge. I am not the chief justice of Pakistan, I am not doing anything -- I never speak to the election commission, I never to speak to anybody down the line.

And so therefore, the procedure is that anybody having a complaint against the candidate or nomination papers of anyone, it is the returning (ph) officer which sees that, and he accepts or rejects the papers and then the person can go and appeal in the high court and then he can come and appeal in the Supreme Court. That is the procedure. Where do I feature?

So asking me this question, whether I will allow? Neither will I allow, nor will I disallow.

BLITZER: Tell us about the immediate former chief justice Chaudhry, whether he will be allowed to go back to his job. I take it he's still under house arrest?

MUSHARRAF: No, not at all. He is no more the chief justice of Pakistan. The chief justice of Pakistan is Mr. Dogar now, and he remains there. And there are judges in the Supreme Court, they are the judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts. Nobody is being allowed to go back.

The issue, Wolf, here is what were we facing? If Pakistan comes first, as I keep saying always, I will protect this nation with my life. We've done everything that this nation needed to rise. I cannot see it falling.

So therefore, what was happening? What was happening that led us (ph) to act? The complete executive machinery was in near paralysis. The law enforcement agencies were totally demoralized, and they were not acting because terrorists were being more encouraged than the law enforcers. And thirdly, the Parliament, the supremacy of the Parliament was totally violated in that they gave me 57 percent votes but yet they were not allowed to go through with their decision.

And then the economy of Pakistan took a downturn. The terrorists started raising their heads because they were encouraged with this whole environment. Therefore, I had to act in the interest of Pakistan. If I act there was a problem, if I do not act there was also a bigger problem. So I took the decision to go for the lesser problem, and that is to act and remove -- to deal with this chief justice of Pakistan. And that had to be done, and there is no room for his coming back.

So let us be clear and let us understand ground realities of Pakistan. This is not the United States, Wolf, this is Pakistan. And we act according to our dictates and realities in Pakistan, and let the people in the United States and West understand what is Pakistan.

Please understand us. We are fighting the terrorists here. Do not destabilize Pakistan. You will repent it. So therefore I would ask the media and everyone to come here, whoever has doubts, I would like to give interviews to all of them so that they understand ground realities here.

But don't judge our actions by ground realities in the United States. That is not the case. That doesn't fit in well. It is a square peg in a round hole. Come and see the environment in Pakistan and then decide whether our action was correct or not.

BLITZER: President Musharraf, we've spent more time then you had budgeted but we appreciate the time you've spent with us. Thank you so much for joining us on "Late Edition."

MUSHARRAF: Thank you very much, Wolf. It was a pleasure talking to you.


BLITZER: And coming up next, the fight over Iraq war funding. Are Congress and President Bush finally close to a deal? We'll talk about that and more with the House Republican leader, John Boehner. He's standing by live right here on "Late Edition."


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. A lot of key developments here in Washington this past week, including the possibility of a deal on a huge spending bill that includes additional funding for the war in Iraq.

Joining us now is the top Republican of the House of Representatives, Congressman John Boehner of Ohio. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

BOEHNER: Wolf, good to be with you.

BLITZER: Welcome back. Let me get your quick reaction to what we just heard from President Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan has received $10 billion in U.S. aid since 9/11. Question: Is this money well spent right now based on what you know in the situation in Pakistan?

BOEHNER: It is well spent. They're an important ally of the United States. They're going to continue to be an important ally. Clearly, what's been happening in Pakistan over the last several months is troubling, but I'm hopeful that emergency law that's in effect will in fact go away next week and that elections, free and fair elections, do occur in January.

BLITZER: So you still have confidence in President Musharraf.

BOEHNER: I do. He's been really a very important ally to us. And when we look at threats we face from around the world, having Pakistan as one of our allies is important to our long-term future.

BLITZER: So you'll support continuing that military assistance to Pakistan.

BOEHNER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the stunning National Intelligence Estimate released this week on Iran. Among the various conclusions, I'll read to you this startling statement. "We judge with high confidence in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." Is that... BOEHNER: Shocking.

BLITZER: It is shocking when you think over the past four years of all the statements that have been made. How did you react when you heard this?

BOEHNER: What I don't understand is how we went from a nuclear Iran on the verge of a nuclear weapon to judging with high confidence that they stopped their program four years ago?

BLITZER: I mean, what does that say about...

BOEHNER: And I think the big question is, what changed? What caused our government and our intelligence agencies to reassess in such -- this whole situation in such a dramatic change? And I intend to get to the bottom of what's different today, what do we know that we didn't know, and why have we made this dramatic shift.

BLITZER: Well, are you suggesting, as I think you are, that you don't necessarily have confidence in this new NIE?

BOEHNER: Well, either I don't have confidence in what they told me several months ago or I don't have confidence in what they're telling me today. There is a giant shift that's occurred here. There has to be some basis for it and I want to understand what the basis of that shift in thinking and the shift in this assessment is.

BLITZER: Because I interviewed earlier in the week the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, who was incredulous. He basically thought that there was a politicization, in part of these NIEs, this latest one, in part, reacting to the failure of the WMD assessment leading up to the war in Iraq.

BOEHNER: Well, while I want to understand why this assessment has changed so dramatically, let's just understand that Iran continues to be a threat. They're one of the largest state sponsors of terrorism around the world. Their leadership is on the verge of being crazy, and they are still a very serious threat to the United States and to the region.

BLITZER: But do you personally believe, accept this estimate that four years ago Iran suspended, froze, ended -- whatever word you want to use -- its nuclear weapons program?

BOEHNER: If you understand, as I do, what goes in to producing a National Intelligence Estimate, 16 different agencies, the long process that it goes through, yes, I'll accept their conclusion. But I want to understand how we went from this very serious threat to this new assessment.

BLITZER: So you basically want a postmortem. You want to know how they came up with this conclusion.

BOEHNER: I want to know what happened.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the other controversy, the CIA now acknowledging the other day that it did in fact destroy two videotapes of what are described as harsh interrogation techniques of two Al Qaida suspects back in 2002. They destroyed the tapes in 2005.

And now the Justice Department has announced it will begin a preliminary investigation amid charges of coverup, obstruction of justice, destroying evidence. What's your reaction to what's going on here?

BOEHNER: I'm troubled by what's been revealed. When the CIA director is unaware of this, the president's unaware of it, the Congress of the United States is unaware of it...

BLITZER: Porter Goss was then the CIA director.

BOEHNER: Porter Goss was then the CIA director. I think we need to get to the bottom of what were these tapes, what happened, was there permission, was there permission required, and now you have the Justice Department doing their investigation.

You're going to have the Intelligence Committees in both the House and the Senate doing their investigations. And we'll get to the bottom of what -- really what did happen.

BLITZER: Joe Biden, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a Democratic presidential candidate, says the Justice Department, the attorney general, should name a special counsel to investigate. Is that a good idea?

BOEHNER: I don't think that's necessary. We have professional investigators at the Department of Justice who can do this in an even- handed way. And I think they're well-qualified to do it. And the Congress has our own investigators who will be in the middle of this investigation as well.

BLITZER: Based on what you know, should the CIA have destroyed those videotapes?

BOEHNER: I have no idea. But that's -- those are the answers that I think that Congress and the administration are trying to get their hands on.

BLITZER: Let's talk about funding -- a lot of money at stake right now. The president is seeking another nearly $200 billion to continue the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senate Democrats, House Democrats, they're saying, you know what? You can have a big chunk of that -- maybe $50 billion or $70 billion -- right away, keep the war going without any strings attached, as long as you provide a lot of money for other domestic programs that they say are badly needed.

There seems to be a stalemate right now, the White House threatening a veto. Is there an opportunity for a compromise though so that the funding continues without a deadline for troop withdrawal, at the same time increasing some of the spending for these domestic programs, including border security and other security? BOEHNER: Why should congressional Democrats try to blackmail the president for more domestic spending, because we've got troops in Afghanistan and Iraq who need resources? I don't -- this is unnecessary. We ought to be giving the president and all the money for the troops, Afghanistan and Iraq, for the balance of this fiscal year.

It is about $170 billion still needed to fund our efforts there. It has nothing to do with the congressional Democrats' insatiable desire to spend more money.

BLITZER: Let me play for you a clip from what Nancy Pelosi said the other day on this. And she's the speaker of the House. Listen to this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF.: The DOD had assured us that they had enough money until March. The legislation that we passed gives the DOD everything they want from now until then for our troops, and that's where we stand.


BLITZER: And Steny Hoyer, who's the majority leader in the House, said this about the spending that went on for some six years while the president was in office, obviously the Republicans were in the majority.


REP. STENY H. HOYER, D-MD.: This administration, under the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate, has borrowed more money from foreign governments than all of the other administrations combined. Debt matters. Frankly, the Republicans over the last six years have said debt does not matter.


BLITZER: All right. You're basically are arguing over $11 billion, which is beyond the budget that the Democrats want to increase in this new budget, which in the scheme of things, given your track record, when you were in the majority doesn't seem like a whole lot of money.

BOEHNER: Wolf, most of my constituents -- and I think most Americans -- would call $11 billion of wasteful Washington spending a lot of money.

BLITZER: But under your watch, the national debt went from some $5 trillion to $9 trillion, so $11 billion compared to those trillions doesn't seem like a lot.

BOEHNER: Wolf, Wolf, Wolf, Wolf, did you -- Wolf, Wolf, Wolf, did you forget that 9/11 occurred? The brakes went on to the economy? We were -- this economy was in a real freefall. Had it not been for rate reductions that were enacted in '01 and '03 by the Bush administration and this Congress...

BLITZER: The tax cuts, you mean.

BOEHNER: ... the tax cuts, in a bipartisan way, we could have had a very serious economic problem.

BLITZER: So -- but the question is, for $11 billion, which obviously is a ton of money, it's a lot of money...

BOEHNER: It's blackmail.

BLITZER: ... will you shut down the government?

BOEHNER: It's blackmail.

BLITZER: Will you shut down the government and not fund the troops because of the $11 billion that the Democrats say they want to go forward for all sorts of causes?

BOEHNER: Wolf, Republicans lost the last election in '06. And part of the reason we lost is because a lot of people thought that we lost our way on spending. I've spent all year working with my House Republican colleagues and Senate Republican colleagues to draw a line on spending, to get rid of wasteful earmarks.

This money is not necessary. And I believe that we ought to hold the line on spending. And I've worked with the administration. And when it's all said and done, this government, it needs to be more lean and efficient because that's what the American taxpayers deserve and expect.

BLITZER: So, from your perspective, at least right now -- and you've got another week or so before Congress goes into recess -- no deal.

BOEHNER: No deal. No deal. We ought to get the money to the troops, we ought to find ways to reduce spending so that we can hold it at the president's numbers and get ourselves home to see our constituents for the holidays.

BLITZER: The minority leader, the Republican leader in the House, John Boehner, thanks very much for coming in.

BOEHNER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up next, new intelligence -- has Iran actually stopped working on a nuclear bomb some four years ago? As U.S. credibility taken another huge hit. We'll get insight from two foreign policy experts. "Late Edition" continues right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

After months of acrimony and warnings about Iran's so-called nuclear weapons threat, a stunning turnaround this week as new U.S. intelligence revealing Iran actually stopped trying to build a nuclear weapon four years ago. The Bush administration though isn't budging from its bottom-line insistence that Iran still represents a very, very dangerous country.

Here with some perspective on what this all means, two guests: Lawrence Korb is a former assistant secretary of defense. He's now with the Center for American Progress here in Washington. And Daniel Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, also here in Washington. Thanks to both of you for coming in.

I want to get to all of that in a moment, but first I want to talk about the CIA and the decision to destroy those two videotapes back in 2005, videotapes made in 2002, harsh interrogation techniques involving two Al Qaida suspects.

You've been around Washington for a long time. What do you make of this?

KORB: Well, I think this is a new legal and moral low and I think the problem is going to be not only whether they acted improperly, but it's going to undermine a lot of the cases the government is trying to bring against many of these people, because judges have asked for this, the 9/11 Commission asked for it, some of the trials they've asked for it. So if I'm a defense lawyer, I think I could use this to get some of the convictions thrown out.

BLITZER: Here's a question though: There's a preliminary Justice Department investigation now underway. Was a crime, in your opinion, committed?

KORB: Based on the facts we know, this is a crime.

BLITZER: What crime?

KORB: The crime of obstruction of justice.

BLITZER: What do you think, Danielle? PLETKA: I'm not a lawyer, Wolf. I have no idea. I think the thing that troubles me most about this is, sounds like something wrong was done. I don't think we should have much doubt about that. Sounds like a mistake was made.

But it does really push further in the direction of forgetting who the bad guys are here. The CIA is a group of Americans, they're working to protect us. Let's not forget that as we talk about this.

Let's remember that these guys are doing their absolute best to secure the intelligence, to keep us safe, to be sure there is no next 9/11. And I think that's just an important thing that we need to keep at the top of our minds.

BLITZER: John McCain, who himself was tortured as a POW back during the war in Vietnam, he spoke out when he learned this week like the rest of us that those two videotapes of the interrogation were in fact destroyed. He said this. Listen, Danielle.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I don't think they should have destroyed those tapes and it will harm the credibility of the CIA, in my view, and I wish they had listened to members of Congress who said they should not do so.


BLITZER: What do you think? Do you agree with him on that?

PLETKA: I can't help but agree with him.

BLITZER: So you agree that the tapes should not have been destroyed.

PLETKA: Absolutely not. If someone had asked for them and they were required to be kept, they should have been kept. There's no doubt in anybody's mind that that's the case. I just answered you before and said I don't know whether a crime was committed, because I don't.

BLITZER: The current director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden, who was not the CIA director in 2005 when these tapes were destroyed -- Porter Goss, the former congressman was the CIA director -- he justified the decision though to destroy the tapes by suggesting that if they had ever been made public, the CIA officers who were involved in the interrogation, they and their families could have been subjected to retaliation by Al Qaida or other supporters or sympathizers. Do you buy that?

KORB: No, I don't, because if in fact the courts and the 9/11 Commission had done this, they could have redacted it in such a way that we would not have known who they were.

The interesting thing is Porter Goss was head of the agency. They didn't even tell him. Harriet Miers, who was the White House counsel, told them not to do it. So, I mean, the whole idea that somehow or another this is sort of post facto justification just doesn't add up.

BLITZER: You want to just add anything before we move on?

PLETKA: Well, again, I'm not sure that's the reason, but we should take very seriously the idea that these terrorists do, in fact, memorize the names of their interrogators.

Down at Guantanamo Bay, each one of our officers and soldiers has to go around with no name patch because there are folks down there, terrorists down there, who memorize lists of names, smuggle them to the outside and then threaten the families of these individuals. So let's not make light of that. It may not be a good justification but let's not make light of it.

BLITZER: All right. Well, nobody's making light of it. We're not making light of it. All right, guys. Stand by. We're going to talk about the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran and its nuclear weapons program or lack thereof. Much more with Danielle Pletka and Lawrence Korb right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're back with Lawrence Korb and Danielle Pletka.

Danielle, here's a key line from the National Intelligence Estimate released this week on Iran and its nuclear program: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. We also assess with moderate to high confidence that Tehran, at a minimum, is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons."

Do you believe that this is accurate, this assessment of the NIE?

PLETKA: Well, first of all, I think you left out a very important part of that, and that's that first sentence actually has a little footnote on it. And they further define what they mean by nuclear weapons program. And that is, the military component of the program.

And I'll say, I didn't know that we ever knew for sure that there was a military component to the Iranian nuclear weapons program. So I'm glad to know that we're certain that there was one in 2003 when so many people were saying so.

If the CIA believes that, in fact, that was ended, that's a good thing. But it's never been the real focus of either the United States or the international community. We've all been focusing on the overt nuclear program about which the IAEA and the United Nations have said Iran is not disclosing sufficient information. That's been the real focus.

BLITZER: They are continuing to enrich uranium, which they're entitled to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it is supposed to be transparent and even the IAEA and the director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, telling me only a few weeks ago that there is elements of that that aren't being transparent.

KORB: There's no doubt about it. But I think the significance of this is that the Iranians are a rational country. They also use the term in the NIE cost-benefit analysis. Like most nations, they look at the cost and they look at the benefits.

Remember, in 2003, their main adversary, Saddam Hussein, was overthrown.

KORB: They restarted their nuclear program, which had begun under the shah, in the 1980s after Saddam invaded and used chemical weapons against them. I think it also shows that ElBaradei, the IAEA, was right again because he kept saying they aren't weaponizing. And he said before the -- we went into Iraq that, you know, they didn't have nuclear weapons. BLITZER: Here's the part he's referring to in the NIE, this other line that they said, "Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously."

What do you think of that? Because if in fact they did suspend their nuclear weapons program in 2003, and if it's accurate -- as they say, diplomat international pressure caused them to do so -- maybe there is a whole new way of looking at this government in Iran.

PLETKA: Two things are important to understand here. Number one, it is interesting in the publicly released key judgments in the NIE, the CIA folks who wrote that didn't say what happened in 2003. The most important thing that happened that year wasn't any great diplomatic initiative against Iran. It was that we invaded and overthrew Saddam Hussein.

I think Moammar Gadhafi in Libya was looking like that. I think the Iranians were looking at that. And I think they all said, hmm, perhaps this may not be worth the risks. That's good news, but it doesn't mean...

BLITZER: What do you think about that? Because that's a fair point.

KORB: Well, there's no doubt about the fact that getting rid of Saddam gave -- undermined the real reason they restarted it. Remember that when the mullahs came in, they stopped it. The shah started this program.

They stopped it. When Saddam invaded, they started it again. No doubt about it. But at the same time, the Europeans were also making them aware of the benefits that they could get from the international community if in fact they did stop. And so I think you have a combination of both of those things. The main thing to me is Iran's like any other nation. They'll look at cost benefits and make a judgment. They're not some crazy people.

BLITZER: Has the U.S. Taken a major hit with its credibility around the world as a result of this new NIE?

PLETKA: I think the U.S. has taken a hit with its credibility. But I don't think any of the assault on our credibility was from the Iranians or from the Europeans. I think it was from this NIE and the way that it was crafted.

And that's really my big complaint, is that the politicization of this has really been strong. That first sentence really wasn't quite necessary to be framed that way. I think that they could have explained very clearly what they meant without a footnote, said in fact that the weapons program that we never knew exists we now judge doesn't exist. That's what's so troubling about this, is that the CIA and the ODNI, the office of the director of national intelligence, really do seem to be engaging in politics. They seem to have a political aim. BLITZER: But both of these guys who run it, they're career military officers, Admiral Mike McConnell and General Michael Hayden. They're not politicians.

PLETKA: Well, what are you trying to say, that people in military positions don't have political views? That's news to me, and I've lived in Washington for a long time. I think the only conclusion we can draw from the way that it was framed and in addition from the fact that the original copy that was shown to the White House was not that copy -- is that conclusion.

KORB: McConnell, Dick Cheney, vice president, said he is satisfied with it, he liked McConnell. He worked with him when he was secretary of defense, and he pushed to have him run the whole intelligence community. And it wasn't just the CIA. It was 16 agencies that signed up to this.

BLITZER: All right, we've got to leave it right there. The subject is not going away. Danielle Pletka, thanks for coming in. Larry Korb, thanks to you as well.

Still ahead, what will Congress do about the CIA's decision to destroy those videotapes of those harsh interrogations? We'll discuss that and a lot more with two key members of the United States Senate. They're standing by live. Stay with us. "Late Edition" continues right after this.


BLITZER: Coming up on "Late Edition," senators Dianne Feinstein and Jon Kyl. They're standing by live to talk about those destroyed CIA interrogation tapes and the possibility of a cover-up.

Plus, did Mitt Romney allay concern about his Mormon faith? And how nasty is it getting out there between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. That and a lot more with the best political team on television. "Late Edition" continues at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.


BUSH: I still feel strongly that Iran is a danger.


BLITZER: But a new U.S. intelligence report says Iran stopped building a nuclear bomb in 2003. And the CIA destroys interrogation videotapes of suspected terrorists.


WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY DANA PERINO: The CIA director is gathering facts and our White House Counsel's Office is supporting them in that.


BLITZER: Did the CIA break the law? Two leading U.S. senators, Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican Jon Kyl, weigh in.

Explaining faith.


FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: Let me assure you that no authorities of my church or of any other church, for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions.


BLITZER: Did Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney put concerns about his religion to rest? We'll go over the latest from the campaign trail and get analysis from three of the best political team on television. The second hour of "Late Edition" begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN in Washington, this is "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: And welcome back to the second hour of "Late Edition." It's been quite a week, from the startling conclusion of the new U.S. intelligence report on Iran to news that the CIA had videotapes of harsh interrogations of top Al Qaida suspects and those videotapes were destroyed.

So let's get right to our conversation with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. She's a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. And Republican Senator Jon Kyl, he's on the Judiciary Committee. On Thursday, he was also elected the minority whip. That's the number two Republican in the U.S. Senate.

Congratulations, Senator Kyl, on that as well.

KYL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's talk first of all about the CIA destroying videotapes of what are described as very harsh interrogation techniques of two -- at least two Al Qaida suspects.

And Senator Feinstein, I'll begin with you. Was a crime, in your opinion, based on what you know right now, potentially -- potentially -- committed?

FEINSTEIN: Based on what I know now, it was a big mistake. Whether it's a crime or not, I think we're going to have to find. Senator Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has announced that we will be doing an investigation and holding hearings.

And I think it's important to know exactly what the tapes were -- there's a lot of speculation -- exactly why they were made, who gave the order to make them, who gave the order to destroy them, and exactly why this was done. I don't buy the answer, it was for the protection of the CIA. And I don't buy it for technical reasons that I can't go into here.

BLITZER: All right. We'll talk about that in a moment. You'll tell us what you can tell us. But let me ask the same question to Senator Kyl.

Was a crime potentially committed here?

KYL: I know of no statute or other reason why anyone would suspect that a crime was committed. And it may not...

BLITZER: Well, let me give you a couple examples. For example...

KYL: OK. It may not have been a good idea, but that's different from a crime. Go ahead.

BLITZER: If there were court hearings or there were legal proceedings against suspects and defense attorneys asked for any videotapes and were told in their discovery process there were no videotapes, would -- potentially that could be a crime.

KYL: The only instance in which the news has reported there were requests from a court dealt with other suspects, not the two suspects that were the subject of the interrogation that was taped, apparently. So, at least insofar as the news story about the Moussaoui case is concerned, that would not be applicable here.

BLITZER: What about the 9/11 Commission, a presidential commission approved by Congress, they asked for videotapes and they were told that there were no videotapes, potentially. Is that perjury?

KYL: I don't know what they specifically asked for or what they were told. There are conflicting news accounts of that here, and so I agree with Senator Feinstein that when the Justice Department and the CIA and, perhaps, Congress conducts its investigation, we'll find out what the facts are.

BLITZER: So I assume, Senator Kyl, you don't agree with Senator Biden who said earlier today he would like to see a special counsel named by the new attorney general to go ahead and investigate?

KYL: You know, the Department of Justice, the Central Intelligence Agency, and congressional committees will be looking into this. I think there are -- that probably will get to the bottom of what occurred here because the CIA has apparently indicated its full cooperation in these investigations.

BLITZER: Do you agree with Senator Biden that there should be a special counsel, that the new attorney general, Mukasey, is not necessarily the best person to lead this preliminary investigation? FEINSTEIN: No, not at this time. I think this is going to be the first time the new attorney general will have an opportunity to show his independence. And I think we should let that play out. He has taken...

BLITZER: You have confidence in him?

FEINSTEIN: Yes. He has taken action right away. Now, let me say one other thing. You know, we, on committees, that have the right of oversight, are often asked for information which we don't receive. I mean, is that a crime to deny us that information? Up to this point, it has not been.

BLITZER: Well, what if they lied to you? What if they lied to you?

FEINSTEIN: So I just think when we -- that's different. If they lie before -- for example, if the attorney general lies before the Judiciary Committee, it is potentially.

But we believe he -- the former attorney general has not told us the truth, and nothing has happened. So, I mean, before everybody rushes to judgment, let the investigation take its place.

BLITZER: Fair enough.

General Hayden, Senator Kyl, said in a statement the other day -- in his letter to the employees at the CIA explaining what happened, he made this point, and we just heard Senator Feinstein suggest she doesn't buy it, the rationale why in 2005 they destroyed those videotapes.

He said this: "The decision to destroy the tapes was made within CIA itself. The leaders of our oversight committees in Congress were informed of the videos years ago and of the agency's intention to dispose of the material. Our oversight committees also have been told that the videos were, in fact, destroyed."

And he goes on to say, "Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from Al Qaida and its sympathizers."

Do you accept that explanation why in 2005 they destroyed the videotapes?

KYL: We don't have enough basis to either accept or reject it. There are technical ways of blocking out faces and so on. There may be other information on those tapes, though, that we didn't want to get out. And it is a concern of the CIA that so much that would need or should be classified and kept within the agency, has been leaked and, frankly, to the detriment of the American policies that we're trying to pursue as a nation.

The Abu Ghraib tapes, for example, that leaked out and everybody in the world saw them, that did us a lot of harm. So you can understand why the CIA would be concerned about wanting to protect something like this. But whether or not the explanation was valid or not we simply don't have enough...

BLITZER: Why don't you buy -- Senator Feinstein, why don't you buy General Hayden's explanation that this was done to protect those CIA officers who were interrogating these Al Qaida suspects and their families from potential retaliation by Al Qaida and its sympathizers?

FEINSTEIN: Well, that retaliation can happen anyway. As long as when the United States did practice techniques equal to waterboarding, that puts everybody in jeopardy. That puts the American military in jeopardy, it puts individual CIA officers in jeopardy.

I think what all this leads up to is the CIA should not be out on its own developing what techniques of torture it will use, that the CIA should be included with the rest of government, which is the military, in using this document, the Army Field Manual -- not a small document, a very thick document -- which prescribes which techniques, eight of them, cannot be used, offers 18 techniques for coercive interrogation that can be used, which I introduced...

BLITZER: Which you support.

FEINSTEIN: I introduced in the Intelligence Conference Committee an amendment to place the CIA under this document.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Senator Kyl... FEINSTEIN: Let me just finish. It was accepted by the Senate conferees, by the House conferees. It is now part of the Intelligence Authorization Bill and I will offer it on the floor of the Senate when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is before the Senate, perhaps before we go out on recess.

BLITZER: Senator Kyl, will you support Senator Feinstein in her effort to have one standard for the U.S. military, the same standard for the civilians, specifically the CIA in terms of what kind of techniques they can use to interrogate terror suspects?

KYL: No. This is one area in which my good friend, Senator Feinstein, and I strongly disagree. It is not as if the CIA is a rogue agency deciding what methods to use.

The president controls what methods of interrogation the CIA uses and there are good and sufficient reasons why there is a difference between what our soldiers can do when they capture somebody on the battlefield, and what other agencies of the United States can do when they are interrogating terrorist suspects and trying to obtain information from them. But that too, is all controlled by the orders of the president of the United States.

BLITZER: I'll give you the final word before we take a break.

FEINSTEIN: I, Jon, respectfully am not sure that's entirely correct. We have been briefed on what are called enhanced interrogation techniques. Those techniques have changed. They are subject to change again. I don't know whether the president approves all of these changes or not. I do know that there is also a question in my mind on the procedures by which these techniques are administered. I can't go into it here. I don't like it. Remember, the FBI withdrew from interrogating suspects for the very reason that they questioned techniques.

Now, I think the time has come to end the debate over torture in our country. I don't believe it helps this nation, either internally or externally. I don't think it befits us as a democratic culture to engage in them. And everyone that I have talked to has said that the techniques outlined in the Army field manual have always been adequate. You can talk to people in the CIA...

BLITZER: All right.

FEINSTEIN: Let me make this one thing. You can talk to people in the CIA who will say, oh, we got all this information because we used these techniques. You can also talk to people and see records that will show you the techniques are not effective. So, the question comes, does it befit this nation to use these techniques? And my view is it does not.

BLITZER: Because George Tenet, the former CIA director, and others, as you point out, in the CIA say these techniques, whether you like them or not, saved American lives.



BLITZER: Hold on one second, Senator Kyl. I want Senator Feinstein to respond.

FEINSTEIN: Well, that's his judgment. I'm not sure that's true.

BLITZER: What do you think, Senator Kyl?

KYL: He was the CIA director. The fact of the matter is, you can find out whether or not it is the practice that president dictates the policy to the CIA. I believe that is true. It's easily found out.

BLITZER: All right.

KYL: And secondly, again, the United States does not use torture. It may use some techniques that some people are queasy about, but we do not use torture. That would be a violation of the Geneva conventions.

BLITZER: Is waterboarding torture, Senator Kyl?

KYL: Again, the United States does not use torture, and the president is the one who determines what the policies for interrogation are. BLITZER: But based on what you know about waterboarding, where they simulate someone is drowning and they believe they're near death, is that torture?

KYL: Wolf, we cannot discuss on television the precise tactics that are used and the definition that people have given to them. And so that's all I can say. We do not use torture and the president determines the techniques the CIA can use.

BLITZER: All right. Let's leave it there and we'll...

FEINSTEIN: Just leave it with I disagree with what's just been said.

BLITZER: I know Senator Feinstein disagrees on this issue. Senator Feinstein and Senator Kyl disagree, which is fair enough. Let's see if they disagree on the next subject we're going to talk about, which is the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran and its apparent decision back in 2003 to suspend or freeze its nuclear weapons program.

Also coming up later here on "Late Edition," our political panel will discuss what clearly has been a wild week in American politics. The inside story from some of the best political team on television, "Late Edition" continues right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation with the Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and the Republican new leader, number two leader, in the Senate, from the Republican perspective, the minority whip, John Kyl of Arizona. Thanks once again.

Let me start with you, Senator Kyl, this time. I'm going to read to you from the startling new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran and its nuclear program. This line jumps out at all of us: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

Do you accept that conclusion from the U.S. intelligence community?

KYL: I have no reason to dispute it. You should also read the footnote to that, however, which is very important and makes the point that, as to the civilian program, which involves illegally enriching uranium, we judge that program continues unabated.

That's the hard part, the production of the fissile material that is used to -- for the bomb. The relatively easy part is mating that material to the triggering device that enables a weapon to be created.

BLITZER: Here's the footnote. And I'll read it, since you asked. Danielle Pletka asked us to do it earlier on "Late Edition": "For the purposes of this estimate, by nuclear weapons program, we mean Iran's nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium-conversion related and uranium enrichment related work. We do not mean Iran's declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment."

It sounds complicated, but the bottom line is that they are enriching uranium, Senator Kyl, which they're allowed to do under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. But the CIA and the other 15 agencies of the U.S. Intelligence community, do not believe they have evidence they are actually working right now on the weaponization of any nuclear bomb.

KYL: Well, they said as of mid-year. They don't know what the situation is right now. And they also note that they could resume it at any time. They also note that they could acquire a nuclear weapon or material from other sources.

Let me just read one line from a New York Times editorial, certainly no conservative organization: "The new report is not an argument for anyone to let down their guard when it comes to Iran's nuclear ambitions." And I think that's the bottom line here. We judge that they have stopped part of their nuclear program, but that's no reason to change any policy with respect to Iran, which after all has said that it desires to acquire nuclear technology.

BLITZER: All right. Let me bring Senator Feinstein, a member of the intelligence committee, into this discussion. Another line in the NIE says, as Senator Kyl points out, the danger is they can enrich, play like they got a civilian program or have a civilian program, or actually, I'm sorry, not from the -- this is not from the NIE. This is a statement that the president made this past week at that news conference. And I'm going to play it for our viewers. Listen to this.


BUSH: The danger is that they can enrich, play like they got a civilian program, or have a civilian program or claim it's a civilian program, and pass the knowledge to a covert military program.


BLITZER: All right. What's your bottom line? FEINSTEIN: Well, I think the president is not quite upfront on this. All his arguments have been based on the fact that Iran is going militarily for a nuclear program. That means a nuclear warhead. That's what all this policy is based on. We now find, a-ha, the program has been halted since 2003.

FEINSTEIN: To me, first of all, we'll look at this in the Intelligence Committee. The classified version has a number of things that we need to look more deeply into, but having said that, the point of this is that it offers a new opportunity for robust dialogue with Iran which should have taken place a long time ago.

There was a time, the early part of this year, particularly January and February, where Iran would have been susceptible to a proposal which would create an international trusteeship to come into Iran, to be on the ground 24/7, to be able to watch over the program. It was part of a wider proposal, but it was something that should have been examined, in my view. It was never examined.

BLITZER: Your bottom line is a time for diplomacy at the highest levels.

FEINSTEIN: The time for diplomacy at the highest levels is now. Not to consider to talk about military aggression against a country who, to the best we know right now, has a peaceful, civilian nuclear program under way. I don't doubt what the president says, that you can transfer it, but the key is to deal with the civilian part in a way that gives the world the assurance that this is not going to happen.

BLITZER: And that's a fair point, but I want you to listen, Senator Kyl, to what the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said in reacting to this new U.S. government intelligence report. He said this on Wednesday: "This is a declaration of victory for the Iranian nation against the world powers over the nuclear issue. This was a final shot to those who, in the past several years, spread a sense of threat and concern in the world through lies of nuclear weapons."

And I assume he's also referring to only a few weeks ago, the president of the United States raising the specter of World War III resulting from this Iranian nuclear program.

KYL: Well, first of all, nobody's talking about military action against Iran. As a matter of fact, the Senate recently passed a resolution that specifically called for sanctions against the Iranian National Guard Corps as a way to put economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran. And that's what we should be doing.

And this business of trusting the Iranians, I'm sorry. Again, I go back to the New York Times editorial a couple days ago: "Anyone who wants to give the Iranians the full benefit of the doubt should read the last four years of reports from United Nations nuclear inspectors about Iran's 18-year history of hiding and dissembling."

The fact of the matter is, they have not complied with the United Nations direction on this or the IAEA's inspections. And one of the reasons that we believe that we should continue to monitor this very, very carefully, is, as I said before, because the hardest part of creating a nuclear weapon is getting the fissile material. The relatively easy part is then putting the triggering device in.

BLITZER: All right. Let me briefly, before I let both of you go, get your reaction to what we heard on in our exclusive interview here on "Late Edition" from the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. And Senator Feinstein, first to you. He says no one is doing more than Pakistan to help the United States find Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden. And he also said this. I'll play a little clip.


MUSHARRAF: As far as the intelligence is concerned, it is our intelligence which has got hold of each and every terrorist, either killed or eliminated or arrested.


BLITZER: Since 9/11, the U.S. has provided some $10 billion in military assistance to Pakistan. Should the U.S. continue this program right now?

FEINSTEIN: Well, let me be clear. I worry much more about Pakistan than I do Iran. Pakistan has nuclear warheads. Pakistan has proliferated in nuclear weapons. A.Q. Khan has never been debriefed. We don't know to whom he sold what. I think that's important.

He is essentially held in house arrest, incommunicado. I have major concerns about Pakistan. It is a training ground for terrorism. Its madrassas preach jihad to young people. It helps create a new generation of terrorists.

There is no question, in my view, you have these training camps and the safe harbors in the FATA areas of Pakistan. And I found it slightly disingenuous when it comes to that.

BLITZER: So what about the money, the military assistance? Should the U.S. continue to provide billions of dollars to President Pervez Musharraf's government to fight terror?

FEINSTEIN: For the time being yes, unless Pakistan becomes unstable, which some say may happen. The elections commission to my understanding, has said that Mr. Sharif cannot run for president, may well say that Mrs. Bhutto will not be able to run for president.

BLITZER: For prime minister.

FEINSTEIN: I meant for prime minister. Excuse me. And yet you have General Musharraf saying, I had nothing to do with this, implying he had nothing to do with throwing out the Supreme Court. I don't think that instills confidence in us, as this -- that Pakistan is a partner we want to trust.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Senator Kyl.

KYL: Well, Pakistan has clearly been a mixed bag. It is true that most of the bad guys, the terrorists, have come from Pakistan, and Pakistanis have been very helpful in enabling us to catch those guys. It is also true that they have helped us in some other ways.

But likewise, they could be doing a much better job, and what Senator Feinstein said about some of the terrorist training and certainly providing sanctuary, we believe is also correct. So, as with so much in the Middle East, it's a mixed bag. But least for the time being, I do agree that we need to continue to provide the aid because the military in particular has been very helpful in helping us to round up some of these radical Islamist terrorists.

BLITZER: Senator Kyl, thanks once again for joining us. To you, congratulations on being elected the number two Republican in the U.S. Senate. Senator Feinstein, thanks to you as well for coming in. Appreciate it very much.

Coming up, we're going to go live to Oslo. The Nobel Peace Prize about to be given to Al Gore. Miles O'Brien is there. We'll set the stage for you. Also, the best political team on television coming up. They're standing by to hear from Oprah Winfrey, who's on the campaign trail right now with Barack Obama.


BLITZER: On Monday, the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to the former vice president, Al Gore, and the U.N. Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change. CNN's chief technology and environment correspondent, Miles O'Brien, is on the scene in Oslo, Norway. He's joining us now with a preview. I guess it's getting exciting out there, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this city is just popping with excitement.

O'BRIEN: You know, this is kind of like their Super Bowl. The people of Oslo, the people of Norway, converging on the capital of this country for what amounts to a three-day festival, celebrating the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. I guess this year, Wolf, you can call it a Goronation.

Now, Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, arrived here the day before yesterday, opted out of the traditional motorcade from the airport, took the train just like I did, 19-minute ride right into the center of the city. Obviously, a lot of symbolism in all of that.

Today, a series of meetings and photo-ops and interviews, Gore meeting with the environment and foreign minister for the country of Norway. Ironically, Norway is a big user of fossil fuels. They sit on one of the biggest oil and gas deposits in the world in the North Sea, and there's been a lot of criticism aimed at Norway, that they aren't doing enough to curb their emissions.

Mr. Gore didn't want to talk about what he said in private with those ministers here in Norway. He did talk, along with Rajendra Pachauri, who's the top scientists for the United Nations on all of this, about how he feels there is a planetary emergency and now is not the time to doubt scientists, now is the time to take action.

And he pointed out a grassroots effort in the United States, cities and states, even corporate leaders, demanding some changes, demanding controls by the government to curb emissions. And with that, he took aim at the Bush administration.


FORMER VICE PRESIDENT ALBERT GORE JR.: This has not yet resulted in changes at the White House. It has resulted in changes in the U.S. House of Representatives and I predict will soon in the U.S. Senate. But more than any of that, the American people and people in other countries, as the truth of this climate crisis begins to be more widely known, are going to demand that political leaders take action.


O'BRIEN: And with that, Rajendra Pachauri, who is the head of the International Intergovernmental Protocol on Climate Change was asked if technology is the solution. President Bush has said technology is the way out of this. He said, "That is naive." Wolf.

BLITZER: Miles O'Brien on the scene in Oslo for us. Congratulate the vice president, the former vice president, from all of us as well. Thank you very much.

Up next here on "Late Edition,: the polls are showing some potentially significant changes in the race to the White House. We'll break it all down with the best political team on television in a moment. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This was really an exciting week in American politics. So let's get right down to it with our panel.

Our correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, she's out on the campaign trail right now in Columbia, South Carolina, where people are getting ready to hear from Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama. Joining us here in Washington, our White House correspondent, Ed Henry and our CNN political contributor, Amy Walters -- Walter, that is -- of the Hotline.

Did I get it right, Amy? Thank you very much. Let me go to Suzanne first.

They're getting excited about Oprah Winfrey. She's endorsed Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate. I'm going to play a clip, Suzanne, first of all of what she said at a similar rally yesterday in Iowa.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: I'm not here for partisan beliefs. Over the years, I've voted for as many Republicans as I have Democrats. So this isn't about partisanship for me. This is very, very personal. I'm here because of my personal conviction about Barack Obama and what I know he can do for America.


BLITZER: Now, where you are, Suzanne, they had to move this location. It was originally in an indoor arena that could hold about 20,000 people. Those tickets were sold out immediately. Now this new stadium, outdoor stadium, can hold about 80,000 people. Set the scene for us, what's going on?

MALVEAUX: Wolf, they don't expect to fill all the seats but it is very indicative of what is happening here. Some are calling it Oprahlooza, others Obama mania. But we have seen thousands of people who have lined up outside of the stadium early in the morning, five hours before this event is supposed to start.

Essentially, what you're seeing here is these camps -- the Obama camp and Senator Clinton's camp -- going after a specific group, and that is all about the women's vote here. Oprah Winfrey, the numbers are staggering, but she talks about 9 million people a day, 75 percent of her audience are women. So that is what they're hoping to really get the female vote. A very different demographic, though, in Iowa. It's the white woman who's older than 50, really the person who reflects Senator Clinton's profile, if you will, her peers. Here it's much more different. It's about the young African-American women because you have the demographic about 50 percent or so of the demographics, the Democratic primary voters expected to be African- American, 60 percent of those women, so it really is of that group of people that they're centering around today.

Obviously, there's going to be a lot of excitement when Oprah Winfrey arrives here, as there was in Iowa. We saw 23,000 tickets distributed in Des Moines, about 10,000 or so in Cedar Rapids. Wolf.

BLITZER: It's quite a phenomenon.

Ed Henry, this potentially for Obama is a huge, huge deal because he's doing really well right now in several of these states and he's really challenging Hillary Clinton.

HENRY: Absolutely. And proof of the fact that the Clinton camp is taking this seriously, obviously, is the fact that they rolled out their big gun this weekend as well and got Bill Clinton, the former president, out there right away to try to counteract some of the star power.

But obviously the big question is going to be, it's one thing to have 9 million television viewers. That's very big. It's a big target audience, but are these people actually going to show up to vote, especially in Iowa where the caucuses are much different? You've got to be a very committed person who's going to show up. It's a big question.

Maybe they will be for Obama, but maybe not. Maybe there will just be a lot of noise this weekend and they won't actually show up. That's a big question.

WALTER: Yes, and keeping the inspirational message going which is, obviously, what Barack Obama is hoping to do here. And I think that when you're on the ground in Iowa you can feel it, that the momentum is with him right now from that sort of heart place, for voters, that they want to be inspired.

I heard an interview for the candidate that said he wanted somebody who's going to make the hairs on the back of his neck stick up. That's what Barack Obama is doing right now. But we still have a long way to go.


BLITZER: And Suzanne, this new Newsweek poll that's just out in the new issue of Newsweek magazine, among like Democratic caucus- goers, Obama in Iowa is at 35 percent, Clinton is at 29, Edwards at 18 percent, Richardson at 9, Biden at 4. She's feeling the heat in Iowa from Barack Obama and you can't rule out John Edwards either. You were just there. He's got a very strong organization in Iowa. MALVEAUX: Oh, absolutely, and he is really right at their heels here. I want to address something too that Ed said. Essentially, you know, you don't know whether or not folks are really coming out for Oprah or whether or not it's Obama.

MALVEAUX: Even Oprah made a joke about it yesterday, saying, oh, I bet you're here for a free car or a refrigerator. And Obama actually said, I know a lot of you here are for Oprah.

So this is really kind of a moment for him, if you will, to grab the spotlight, grab the attention, a lot of free media coverage to get his message out. We saw Senator Clinton as well. She has her mom out, she's got her daughter, Chelsea. We saw them back in Iowa at one of these events. They obviously are trying to bring out their star power, their women power, but it's a big question whether or not these folks are going to come out and actually vote for him.

BLITZER: That is a huge question. I'm going to play a little clip, Amy, from what the former president, Bill Clinton, told a group in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier today.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In all the years I've been in politics, and I'll be a voter 40 years next year, she has the best combination of mind and heart, of strength of leadership and a feeling for the benefits of -- or the problems of ordinary people of anybody I've ever worked with.


BLITZER: All right. So Obama has Oprah, but Hillary Clinton has Bill Clinton, and that's a pretty good surrogate for her as well.

WALTER: Absolutely. Especially to come in there and say, remember, I was the first inspirational candidate. Democrats, you remember me back in '91 when nobody thought Democrats were going to be able to succeed? I changed the way that you feel about yourselves. Let's go back to those times.

I think for Hillary Clinton, here's the key. We're seeing these polls and some polls have also come out today from MSNBC that show Hillary Clinton's lead dropping a bit in New Hampshire and in South Carolina. What's not happening, though, is that Barack Obama is not rising up.

So here's his chance, as everybody has been saying here, here's an opportunity to sell himself. But he still has to close the deal. Voters are definitely looking around as they were a year ago, but he still has to be able to say he's the anti-candidate. HENRY: The candidate has to make the sale, ultimately. You remember back in 2004, Howard Dean got Al Gore's endorsement. Democratic voters were getting anti-war, and a lot of commentators were saying this is going to seal it for Howard Dean. And sometimes the endorsements get you a little play but doesn't seal the deal.

And so Obama has a great opportunity with Oprah sort of setting the stage for him, but ultimately, let's see what he says today when he takes the stage. He has to close the deal. Same for Hillary Clinton. Her husband can only take her so far.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we have a lot more to talk about, including Mitt Romney. He delivered a major speech this week on his faith. We'll talk about that, the political fallout.

Also coming up next, Rudy Giuliani was grilled for an hour on "Meet the Press" earlier today. We're going to show you some of the highlights of that and all the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States in our very popular "in case you missed it" segment.

"Late Edition" continues right after this.


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. On CBS, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller and committee member Chuck Hagel weighed in on the CIA's decision to destroy videotapes of interrogation tactics.


SEN. JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, D-W.VA.: I don't have anything against taping because it works out for the benefit of the one who is being interrogated because anything -- any, you know, bad treatment clearly comes up on that. But these particular tapes, I don't know why they were destroyed. And I also don't know why we didn't find out about that until 2006.



SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, R-NEB.: Burning tapes, destroying evidence, I don't know how deep this goes. Could there be obstruction of justice? Yes.


BLITZER: On Fox, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee addressed the possibility that some conservative voters may be holding his rival Mitt Romney's Mormon faith against him.


MIKE HUCKABEE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think people ought to judge Mitt Romney on his record. Is he consistent? Does he say and believe the things now he said and believed before? That's what ought to be the criteria. I don't think his Mormonism ought to be a factor in it, and I wouldn't vote for or against somebody because they were Mormon. It simply wouldn't be that big of an issue for me. If it is for others, they'll have to explain that. It isn't for me, and it shouldn't be for anyone.


BLITZER: On NBC, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani commented on his low poll numbers in Iowa and relatively low numbers as well in New Hampshire.


RUDY GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some polls we're behind, some we're ahead. I think there are 21, 22, 23 primaries and caucuses going up to February 5th. I think we're ahead in 16, 18 of them. I don't expect to win all of them. We're going to work real hard in every single one of them, maybe surprise some people.


BLITZER: And on ABC, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden downplayed the power of celebrity on the campaign trail while acknowledging it doesn't hurt.


SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., D-DEL.: Look, this election's going to be determined by what you and I are talking about, not, God love her, what Oprah's talking about. I think it's a very helpful thing. I'd love Oprah to be putting 15,000 people in a room for me to give me a chance to make my case to them.


BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. Coming up, more with the best political team on television. We'll talk about Mitt Romney and his speech on faith, that and a lot more right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with the best political team on television discussing all things political. But Suzanne Malveaux, she is in South Carolina right now. They're getting ready to hear from Oprah Winfrey over at this huge stadium. And Ed Henry and Amy Walter, they're here with me in Washington.

Amy, Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidates, arguably the front-runner right now, at least in Iowa and perhaps some other states -- maybe not even in Iowa anymore, given what Huckabee is doing over there. He delivered his long-anticipated speech on his Mormon faith this week. Let me play a little clip for you.


FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they're right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect respecters -- excuse me -- believers of convenience.


BLITZER: All right. Did he hit a home run? Did he do what he attempted to do, namely reach out to those Christian conservatives who may be skeptical of his faith?

WALTER: I think there are two things. The first is, what he really needed to address, yes, was his Mormon faith which keeps coming up. Whether or not he's going to convince somebody who is a Christian conservative about whether or not they want to talk about the issue of Mormonism is something -- you know, a theological debate.

And I don't necessarily think he's going move people off of that. I think the more important question for him was -- Mike Huckabee went right at it in that clip that we showed -- does he really stand for something? What does he really believe in? Who is he?

And he has talked a lot about -- he has had a position when he was running for office or when he sat in office, and now it's different from that. And that's what, I think, he needed to address. And so I don't necessarily think that the venue he chose was a good way to do that.

You know, he looked very presidential and he had the flags and the seal and the former president introducing him. Nobody is arguing he doesn't look presidential. What they're saying is, "I don't know how real he is." And Huckabee, that's where I think his success has been -- not necessarily on the issues or on faith criteria.

BLITZER: All right, Ed?

HENRY: I think he tried to pull a John Kennedy from 1960. But the big difference is, Kennedy actually addressed his Catholicism head on, didn't just talk about faith in general. And I think maybe Romney missed an opportunity there to deal with Mormonism more directly. And so he sort of put it on the table but not all the way.

And he was also on the defensive, not just on this issue but on immigration this week, which was such a big deal in the CNN/YouTube debate. He had to fire his gardeners because it turned out they still did have illegal immigrants on the payroll.

And so this turned out to be a very difficult week for Romney and he is slipping a bit in Iowa, which was supposed to be the place he would start his momentum, take it to New Hampshire and on.

Meanwhile, Giuliani -- as you said in that clip earlier, Giuliani is still doing well in all of the rest of the polls. And even if Giuliani doesn't do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, he could -- and I stress could -- clean up in these other states. BLITZER: Suzanne, I'll show some of the polls for our viewers. He's on the cover, by the way, Mike Huckabee, in the new Newsweek magazine. In their poll among likely Republican caucus-goers -- look at this -- Newsweek has Huckabee now at 39 percent in Iowa, Romney at 17 percent, Fred Thompson at 10 percent, Giuliani 9 percent, everybody else down further, Ron Paul at 8 percent.

Contrast that to The Des Moines Register poll that came out a few days earlier. Huckabee there ahead as well, with 29 percent, but closer, Romney at 24, Giuliani at 13.

Give us your sense of this phenomenon. Mike Huckabee has got very little money. Mitt Romney has got a lot of money, yet Huckabee is really doing well in Iowa right now.

MALVEAUX: There's a politico who I talked to today who's been following this really for months looking at the Romney, Huckabee, the whole Republican field. And it baffled him why it was that Romney gave his speech at College Station, Texas, of all places. He said he really needed to deliver that speech in Iowa. That's where it really counted.

And that's why it's working so well for Huckabee. I mean, you've got all of the Christians, the conservatives that are there. He is playing very well to that audience. And the one thing that perhaps Romney did do -- maybe it works in the primaries -- is to try to outline this battle, if you will, between secularism and those of faith.

But it might backfire when you look at it beyond the primaries when you go to the general election. Is that going to attract the independents, is it going to attract the moderate Republicans? That is far from certain.

But, obviously, Huckabee and his strong political campaign, grassroots campaign and the religious angle, is really helping him dramatically in Iowa.

BLITZER: And they're streaming in behind Suzanne Malveaux to go listen to Oprah Winfrey, her speech for Barack Obama. That's coming up as well.

All right, guys, thanks very much. Suzanne Malveaux on the scene for us in South Carolina, Ed Henry and Amy Walter here in Washington with me.

If you'd like a recap of today's program, by the way, you can get highlights on our "Late Edition" podcast. Simply Go to

And coming up at the top of the hour, "This Week At War" with host Tom Foreman. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Let's take a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States.

Time magazine says, "Now They Tell Us?" They're referring to the new intelligence report about Iran's nuclear weapons program.

U.S. News and World Report looks at the fathers of the presidential candidates.

And Newsweek declares "Holy Huckabee," referring to the rise of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

That's it for us. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks very much for joining us.

For our international viewers, world news is next. For those of you in North America, "This Week At War" with Tom Foreman.