The BBC reports:
President George Bush's decision to nominate Robert Mueller for director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation came as no surprise.
He had long been considered the most likely choice to replace Louis Freeh, who announced his retirement in May, well ahead of the end of his term in 2003.
But Mr Mueller faces the task of rehabilitating the public image of a badly battered FBI.
Many questions about the efficiency of the security services have been raised in the wake of the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
When the hijacked planes were deliberately crashed into the buildings the agency was still reeling from the Robert Hanssen spy scandal and a last-minute revelation that it failed to turn over thousands of pages of documents to lawyers defending Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Mr Mueller gained the backing of Attorney-General John Ashcroft after serving as acting deputy attorney-general from January to May this year.
Mr Ashcroft's support was key because the Bush administration wants to bring the FBI under tighter control of the Justice Department.
The FBI made a blunder in the McVeigh case
Mr Mueller, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, is known as a strong manager, a trait the administration saw as necessary in rehabilitating the FBI.
He also is well respected in federal law enforcement circles, and he would bring a wide range of legal experience to the post.
Although a conservative Republican, he is known for his ability to win support from both parties.
California Senator Barbara Boxer, a liberal Democrat, recommended him for his previous post as the US Attorney for the Northern District of California.
He began his law career at a private law firm in San Francisco in 1973, and he took his first public post in 1976 when he became an assistant US attorney in San Francisco, where he served until 1982.
He then moved to Boston where he held several positions in the US Attorney's office there, including criminal division chief and deputy United States attorney.
After spending 1988 and 1989 in private practice, he joined the staff of Attorney-General Richard Thornburgh, and his star rose at the Justice Department as the head of the criminal division under President George Bush's father from 1990 to 1993.
He supervised such high profile cases as the prosecution of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega and organised crime boss John Gotti.
And he led the investigations of the 1991 collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International banking and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103.
He joined a private Washington firm in 1993, but in 1995, he left private practice, joining the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia as a senior litigation counsel in the homicide section.
Friday, September 28, 2001
The BBC reports:
Monday, September 24, 2001
List of articles from the September 24, 2001 edition of Newsweek:
A Peaceful Faith, A Fanatic Few: More than 1 billion faithful believers trust in the compassion and power of Allah. What is it in the religion of Islam that turns a few extremists to terrorism?(The Fallout), September 24, 2001
A President Finds His True Voice: Calm and commanding in private, warm and dignified in public, Bush rises to the occasion in the wake of terror.(George W. Bush's response to attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon)(Fighting Back), September 24, 2001
Anguish on the Airwaves: Television was our electronic hearth, uniting us when tragedy pulled us apart.(World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks)(The Fallout)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
Answering Questions: Now it's time for parents to put aside their own pain and comfort and reassure their children.(World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks)(The Fallout)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
Bush: 'We're At War': As the deadliest attack on American soil in history opens a scary new kind of conflict, the manhunt begins.(Fighting Back), September 24, 2001
Bylines: How You Can Help.(relief efforts for World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
Economic Shockwaves: With business already sputtering, the attack may nudge an anxious country into a recession. But rebuilding just might promote recovery.(The Fallout)(Statistical Data Included), September 24, 2001
Grit, Guts and Rudy Giuliani: On the front lines, grieving more than the public knew, the mayor guides his city through hell.(Between the Lines)(Fighting Back)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
Ground Zero: The bombing rippled out to touch all New Yorkers, who responded with bravery, generosity and a deep sense of community. How the city's longest day brought forth its finest hours.(World Trade Center attack)(Horror and Heroes), September 24, 2001
How To Strike Back: Americans want vengeance now. But this is a war like no other. Bush's first challenge: finding the enemy. He'll need the world's help.(Fighting Back), September 24, 2001
Imagining The Hanson Family: The end of the world as we know it provides a look at the force of evil and the power of good.(The Last Word)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
Love and Loss: 'When they look down, they see your love.' --The Reverend Mychal Judge, consoling the bereaved at a memorial service last year. He died giving last rites to a firefighter at the WTC disaster.(The Victims), September 24, 2001
Patriotism vs. Ethnic Pride: An American Dilemma: Arab-Americans worry about a world of hate.(World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks)(The Fallout)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
Perspectives.(quotes regarding World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
Processing a $25 Billion Claim: The insurance industry gears up for massive settlements.(The Fallout)(Brief Article)(Statistical Data Included), September 24, 2001
Requiem for an American Icon: The World Trade Center got a bad rap, but it became an indelible part of the Manhattan skyline.(Horror and Heroes)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
September 11, 2001 9:03 A.M., September 24, 2001
Tech's Double-Edged Sword: The same modern tools that enrich our lives can be used against us. How bad will it get?(terrorism and technology)(Random Access)(The Fallout)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
The End of the End of History: The great political fights were over. Or so we thought. Suddenly, government matters again.(historical aspects of World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks)(World View)(The Fallout)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
The Mesmerizer: Born to wealth, bin Laden studied business administration--then turned to terror.(profile of Osama bin Laden)(Fighting Back)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
Training for Terror: From credit-card fraud to the art of disguise, how bin Laden schools his recruits in mayhem. An inside look.(network of terrorist cells around the world)(Fighting Back)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
Wall Street's Morality Play: With the markets closed, thoughts of going long were set aside in favor of getting along.(stock market in wake of attack on World Trade Center)(The Fallout)(Brief Article), September 24, 2001
We Shall Overcome: Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?(tide of patriotism after World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks)(September 11, 2001), September 24, 2001
Will We Ever Be Safe Again? In the wake of the terror attacks, experts in 'homeland defense' are scrambling to protect the nation's public places. A ban on curbside check-in is only the beginning.(World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks)(The Fallout), September 24, 2001
Sunday, September 23, 2001
Flight 175: Marwan Al-Shehhi, Fayez Ahmed, Mohald Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi and Ahmed Alghamdi
Flight 11: Waleed M Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari and Satam Al Suqami
Flight 77: Khalid Al-Midhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaq Alhamzi, Salem Alhamzi and Hani Hanjour
Flight 93: Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Ziad Jarrahi and Saeed Alghamdi
Now he is protesting his innocence from Casablanca, Morocco.
The BBC reports:
Another of the men named by the FBI as a hijacker in the suicide attacks on Washington and New York has turned up alive and well.
The identities of four of the 19 suspects accused of having carried out the attacks are now in doubt.
Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Centre on 11 September.
His photograph was released, and has since appeared in newspapers and on television around the world.
He told journalists there that he had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and Washington, and had been in Morocco when they happened. He has contacted both the Saudi and American authorities, according to Saudi press reports.
He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Daytona Beach in the United States, and is indeed the same Waleed Al Shehri to whom the FBI has been referring.
But, he says, he left the United States in September last year, became a pilot with Saudi Arabian airlines and is currently on a further training course in Morocco.
Abdelaziz Al Omari 'lost his passport in Denver'
Abdulaziz Al Omari, another of the Flight 11 hijack suspects, has also been quoted in Arab news reports.
He says he is an engineer with Saudi Telecoms, and that he lost his passport while studying in Denver.
Another man with exactly the same name surfaced on the pages of the English-language Arab News.
The second Abdulaziz Al Omari is a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines, the report says.
Meanwhile, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, a London-based Arabic daily, says it has interviewed Saeed Alghamdi.
Khalid Al-Midhar may also be alive
He was listed by the FBI as a hijacker in the United flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.
And there are suggestions that another suspect, Khalid Al Midhar, may also be alive.
FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged on Thursday that the identity of several of the suicide hijackers is in doubt.
Monday, September 17, 2001
For the London Telegraph, former CIA director James Woolsey writes:
In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's attacks, attention has focused on the terrorist chieftain Osama bin Laden. And he may well be responsible.
But intelligence and law enforcement officials investigating the case would do well to at least consider another possibility: that the attacks - whether perpetrated by bin Laden and his associates or by others - were sponsored, supported, and perhaps even ordered by Saddam Hussein.
To this end, investigators should revisit the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre. A few years ago, the facts in that case seemed straightforward: The mastermind behind the bombing, who went by the alias Ramzi Yousef, was in fact a 27-year-old Pakistani named Abdul Basit.
But late last year, AEI Press published Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America, a careful book about the bombing by the AEI scholar Laurie Mylroie.
The book's startling thesis is that the original theory of the attack, advanced by James Fox (the FBI's chief investigator into the 1993 bombing until his replacement in 1994) was correct: that Yousef was not Abdul Basit but rather an Iraqi agent who had assumed the latter's identity when police files in Kuwait (where the real Abdul Basit lived in 1990) were doctored by Iraqi intelligence during the occupation of Kuwait.
If Mylroie and Fox (who died in 1997) are right, then it was Iraq that went after the World Trade Centre last time, which makes it much more plausible that Iraq has done so again.
According to the theory of the 1993 bombing embraced by federal prosecutors and the Clinton administration, Yousef/Abdul Basit was just another Middle Eastern student who became radicalised in his early twenties.
But it is worth noting that the only two publicly reported items suggesting that Yousef and Abdul Basit are the same man could very easily have been products of Iraqi tampering with Kuwaiti police files: a few photocopied pages from earlier Abdul Basit passports that had clearly been tampered with, provided by Yousef in New York in 1992 to get a Pakistani passport in Abdul Basit's name, and fingerprints matching Yousef's found in Abdul Basit's police file in Kuwait.
It is also worth noting that Abdul Basit and his family, who lived in Kuwait, disappeared during the Iraqi occupation, and the family has never reappeared. Was this a random tragedy of war or part of an effort to set up a false identity for Yousef?
Moreover, the Fox/Mylroie theory - that Yousef, via Iraqi intelligence, stole Abdul Basit's identity - would explain a number of troubling differences between Abdul Basit in the summer of 1989 (when he left the United Kingdom after three years of study) and Yousef in September 1992 (when he arrived in New York).
If the two are indeed the same man, then, over the course of three years, he would have: (a) grown four inches (from five foot eight inches to six feet) in his twenties; (b) put on between 35 and 40 pounds; (c) developed a deformed eye, (d) developed smaller ears and a smaller mouth; (e) gone from being an innovative computer programmer to being computer-challenged; (f) aged substantially more than three years in appearance; and (g) changed from being a quiet, smiling young man respectful to women, to a rather hostile different one (a sound file in Yousef's computer, for example, includes his voice saying "Shut up, you bitch").
What incentive would the US government have had to overlook these changes, stipulate that Abdul Basit and Yousef were the same person, and turn away from any suggestion that Saddam was behind the first WTC attack? One can only speculate.
But by arguing that the 1993 WTC bombing and a separate, FBI-thwarted plot to bomb New York tunnels and buildings were connected as parts of a common conspiracy, prosecutors made convicting the participants, under the very broad seditious conspiracy law, far simpler. As for the Clinton administration itself, there would be less need to confront Saddam and perhaps less need to make hard choices, if it didn't finger him as being behind the WTC bombing.
And indeed, ever since Fox was ousted, federal prosecutors and the White House have hewed to the line that most terrorist attacks on the United States are either the product of "loose networks" of folk who just somehow come together or are masterminded by the mysterious and unaccountable bin Laden.
Explicit state sponsorship, especially by Iraq, has not been on the agenda.
The Clinton administration, meanwhile, treated Saddam - in former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger's famous metaphor - like the mole in an international version of the "Whack-a-Mole" carnival game: If you bopped him on the head, he'd stay in his hole for a while. But what has he been doing while he's down there? If Fox and Mylroie are right, quite possibly planning, financing, and backing terrorist operations against the United States.
As yet, there is no evidence of explicit state sponsorship of the Sept 11 attacks. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Does it not seem curious that bin Laden issues fatwas, pushes videotapes, quotes poems, and orders his followers to talk loudly and often about his role in attacks on us? Does someone want our focus to be solely on bin Laden's hard-to-reach self, and not on a senior partner?
If we hope to answer that question, the 1993 WTC bombing is a good place to start looking. No one other than the prosecutors, the Clinton Justice Department and the FBI had access to the materials surrounding that case until they were presented in court, because they were virtually all obtained by a federal grand jury and hence kept not only from the public but from the rest of the government under the extreme secrecy requirements of Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Now a new administration, a new attorney-general, and a new FBI director should investigate the materials that Abdul Basit handled while in the United Kingdom in 1988 and 1989, which were taken into custody by Scotland Yard.
If those materials have Yousef's fingerprints on them, then the Fox/Mylroie theory is likely wrong. But if they don't, then Yousef was probably a creature of Iraqi intelligence. Which means that Saddam still considered himself at war with the United States in 1993. And, tragically, he may still today.
The chinks already have appeared in the Taliban armour. In February 2000, there was an uprising in Khost, in the Taliban heartland (the area struck by US missiles in August 1998), which resulted in the sacking of a Taliban governor. Likewise, an uprising was narrowly avoided last year in Jalalabad, and one actually occurred in the south-eastern Nimruz province.
While the wobbly-kneed among British and American policymakers and academics may argue that after two decades of war, the Afghans are immune to bombing, the Taliban are not. Taliban ministries, schools, and the well-guarded estates of high officials like Mullah Omar or the foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil, can be targeted. So long as it does not result in an occupation, ordinary Afghans will welcome US and British assistance in freeing themselves from a terrorist regime.
This article first appeared as an op-ed on 9/13/01 in the New Republic. R James Woolsey is a partner at Shea & Gardner in Washington DC. He served as director of central intelligence from February 1993 to January 1995.
The economy's in trouble, Gore is stirring and in Florida the ghosts of 2000 are returning to battle anew.
In Newsweek, Howard Fineman writes:
Cathy Dubin was in her Lexus, visiting polling places in Palm Beach County last Nov. 7, when her mobile phone rang. As director of the county Democratic Party, she was on the lookout for Election Day crises, and now her husband was calling--minutes after the polls opened--to report from their own precinct. "You've got a major problem here," he told her. "People can't figure out the ballot." The world soon came to know what he was talking about: the inscrutable "butterfly ballot," which helped make George Walker Bush president.
These days Dubin is on a new mission: to stage a giant rally in West Palm on the first anniversary of Election Day. In a venue usually played by the likes of Aerosmith, Black Sabbath and Sting, she hopes to draw 6,000 Democrats eager to take vengeance on one of the men they blame for Bush's victory, his younger brother Gov. John Ellis (Jeb) Bush. Sen. Joe Lieberman will headline the event. ("He's a rock star down here," says Dubin.) The local draw is Janet Reno, the Democrat most likely to win the right to challenge Jeb in what is sure to be a nasty prelude to the 2004 presidential race. "We're angry, but we are also excited," says Dubin, "because we are going to channel our anger into beating Bushes."
A new political season has begun, and it's shaping up as a War of Settling Scores, with all the old familiar places, faces and themes. Democrats and the press are revisiting the Florida count, recount and Supreme Court decision sealing Bush's victory. Al Gore has grown a beard, and is heading to Iowa to say "I told you so" as the economy sinks. Bush, his standing still enfeebled by the manner in which he was elected, again has to demonstrate that he is Up to It, this time by leading the country out of an increasingly gloomy economy and helping his "little brother" win re-election. Even Bill Clinton is back. Reno's inner circle has discussed inviting him to campaign for her if she can win the gubernatorial nomination. And, as improbable as it seems (there is no love lost between them), Clinton is eager to do so.
The anniversary of the Florida fiasco will find the survivor--Bush--in the swamp of a weak economy. Even before he was elected, his aides foresaw the end of the Long Boom, and tried to warn the public so Bush would not be blamed. But while voters may thank him for their $600 tax rebates, they also may blame him--fairly or unfairly--for the collapse of the stock market, the shrinkage of their 401(k)s or, worse, the loss of their jobs. White House aides rightly note that the so-called misery index--the combined inflation and unemployment rate--is far lower than in past recessions. But doubts about Bush's legitimacy will resurface, Democrats contend, if he can't handle this crisis now. "Because of how Bush got there, the risks of failure are always going to be greater," says Democratic consultant Bob Shrum.
In this new-yet-old cold war, Florida is the DMZ, a rubble-strewn free-fire zone neither party can afford to lose. This week President Bush choppers in for two days with Jeb (his fifth trip there since March 12). The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, will meet in Miami, its first-ever fall conclave outside Washington. Cities such as Tampa, polltakers say, are teeming with "persuadables," the fickle voters of the future. "Florida was a big Republican state," says White House strategist Matthew Dowd. "Now it's the biggest swing state of all."
And Bush's victory there was dicier than we knew, but not for the reasons assumed. Various news outlets have combed through the state's ballot wreckage (another such effort is due next week) and found no conclusive evidence that the count was wrong. But the real story of Florida was in Washington, according to a new book out this week by NEWSWEEK's David A. Kaplan.
In "The Accidental President," he unearths new details about backroom maneuvering and bitterness within the U.S. Supreme Court, which last Dec. 12 ruled that the Florida recount was unconstitutional, effectively declaring Bush the winner. Kaplan reports that Justice David Souter thought he had nearly persuaded Justice Anthony Kennedy to join the "moderate" bloc, which would have reversed the court's ruling and perhaps thrown the election into Congress. "One more day," Souter lamented afterward. And, in an unusual display, Justice Stephen Breyer (in front of a delegation of Russian judges) castigated the conservatives' ruling as an "indefensible" trampling of the people's will.
Most voters have put Florida 2000 out of their minds, but not hard-core Democrats, who blame the high court and the Bush family for Gore's loss. "People say I should stop talking about it," says DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "But I'll tell you what: our people are still mad." The Florida fiasco shows the need for uniform national election rules, he says. Until Bush agrees, McAuliffe says, he'll mouth off. But other Democrats worry that the jihad-like language will distract the party from the task of assembling a new governing agenda. "Payback is not a platform," says one of the party's top strategists.
But it can be rocket fuel in a campaign, and may be the juice that relaunches Gore. Party insiders were dubious about him in 2000, but went along because he was veep. Now most of them--from the trial lawyers to the contribution bundlers, from Big Labor bosses to table hosts at Jefferson-Jackson dinners--think he should step aside.
That's not what most rank-and-file Democrats seem to think. They believe he was screwed--an experience with which they can identify. To them he is a celebrity victim. And after months in self-imposed exile, Gore is ready to return as the sadder but wiser man who still thinks he knows the Way--and who can finally do what most strategists think he didn't do enough of last year: brag about the Clinton-Gore economy.
For now, he's steering clear of Florida and trying to fly below radar. That is no longer possible. Gore's coming-out party is Sept. 28 at a "Jeff-Jack" dinner in Iowa, an event he couldn't avoid because he owed state leaders for sticking with him against Bill Bradley in the 2000 caucuses. Gore had penciled in other dates, including a dinner in New Hampshire and the West Palm rally, but news of the Iowa event created such a frenzy that his handlers advised him to back off. Still, McAuliffe persuaded Gore to do three DNC fund-raisers, and sources say the former veep is likely to do a fourth--in Florida.
The Florida circle can't be unbroken until Clinton comes back. He'd love to show Democrats--and Gore--how to win there. In 1992 he insisted the ticket could win the state, and was convinced it lost only because handlers directed last-minute time and money elsewhere. Clinton-Gore won it in 1996. In 2000 the president was apoplectic at Gore's failure to lock it up early. On election night Clinton homed in on Florida, according to Kaplan's account. "Why is it so f---ing close?" he asked. It was a good question then, and it has been haunting politics, in Florida and Washington, ever since.
Final Ruling: The legal academy may still be blasting Bush v. Gore, but fears that the court would forfeit the public trust were overblown.
Last January, a month after the supreme court handed down its hugely controversial decision in Bush v. Gore--ending the month-old election stalemate and turning the White House over to George W. Bush--legal scholars across the country joined in protest. In a full-page ad in The New York Times, 554 law professors accused the high court of "acting as political proponents" for Bush, and "taking power from the voters." Worse, the ad scolded, "the Supreme Court has tarnished its own legitimacy."
That criticism has yet to subside. Some nine months into the Bush presidency, the debate over the ruling among legal scholars goes on. Many of the country's most respected legal minds have weighed in on Bush v. Gore. The critics contend the court should never have taken the case in the first place. It was a matter of state law, and should be left to state courts, as is the tradition, they argue. The majority's claim that the Florida State Supreme Court's recount procedures violated the Constitution's equal-protection clause is both novel and out of whack with conservative doctrine, they add. And they smirk at the justices' suggestion that their legal analysis should not carry the power of precedent.
The attacks are framed in unusually unflattering terms. Here's a sample. Yale Law School's Bruce Ackerman: "A blatantly partisan act, without any legal basis whatsoever." Harvard's Alan Dershowitz: "The single most corrupt decision in Supreme Court history." American University's Jamin Raskin: "Bandits in black robes."
But do such judgments reflect the merits of the ruling itself, or the professors' own ideological bias? It's hardly a secret that legal academia is a liberal bastion. Conservatives generally defend the result. There are dissenters, but the most forceful ones don't want their names in the newspaper. In the judgment of one such conservative legal thinker, the court's equal-protection argument was "laughable," and, he adds: "I think history will judge the decision harshly." He and many others have suggested that the court's conservatives would have handed down a far different ruling if Bush had been the one demanding a manual recount, and Gore had been demanding that it be stopped. In a recent book, U.S. court of appeals Judge Richard Posner, a highly respected Reagan appointee with liberal views on some issues, was kinder to the justices. He argued that the decision was poorly reasoned and badly written--but in the end fundamentally right, a "kind of rough justice" that was necessary to avert a political crisis threatened by the Florida court, which had "butchered" Florida's election laws and behaved like a "banana republic" in rigging an unreliable process for the recount.
As the academic establishment tells it, Bush v. Gore left the Supreme Court practically in ruins, and caused Americans to lose faith in the court's ability to put the law above politics. But is that true? Do Americans hold the court in lower esteem than they did a year ago? No.
Historically, Americans have ranked the court higher than Congress and the president in confidence ratings, and those ratings have not diminished in the months since the decision. In a Gallup poll, for instance, 49 percent of those surveyed expressed "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the court immediately after the election ruling; 50 percent said so this June. That's a smidgen higher than the court's 47 percent approval rate in June 2000, long before the big controversy. It's hardly a surprise that the court is less popular among Democrats than before, and more popular with Republicans. Eighty-eight percent of Bush voters and only 19 percent of Gore voters polled by NEWSWEEK last December thought the decision was fair.
The deeper question is how the court will look in the cold, impartial eyes of history. A hard question to answer, especially since those eyes are neither cold nor impartial. Historians, like law professors, are often influenced by their own political world views. What's more, Bush himself may influence how future scholars judge Bush v. Gore. If Bush is ultimately considered a successful president, historians may come to look kindly on the court decision that put him in the White House. And vice versa.
No matter what history decides, the ongoing dispute has certainly raised the high court's profile in the minds of the public. The television networks think Americans are just dying to know what really goes on behind that crimson curtain. Not one, but two Supreme Court dramas will debut on TV in January. One, on ABC, stars Sally Field as a liberal justice. The other, on CBS, stars James Garner as the chief justice. Law professors will argue about the fate of the court for years to come. But for Hollywood, at least, the verdict is in.
Al Gore reportedly considered asking Erin Brockovich's help in the 2000 Florida election
In Newsweek, David A. Kaplan writes:
Early on, much more than possible recounts, the issue of the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County consumed the Gore campaign. If a lawsuit went his way, it would eliminate George W. Bush's lead. But how could Gore operatives efficiently collect enough horror stories to convince a judge that the ballot confused enough voters to turn the election?
At 12:30 a.m. on the Friday after Election Day, the phone rang in the Tallahassee hotel room of Ron Klain, a top Gore aide. It was Al Gore, calling from Washington, D.C. Gore had not only been thinking about the problem, but he'd done something about it. He'd called Erin Brockovich. Not Julia Roberts, who played Erin Brockovich in the movie about a town's legal fight with a polluter--but the real Erin Brockovich. The vice president thought "she should come to Florida and lead our efforts to collect affidavits." Gore had figured it all out. "What Erin Brockovich's good at is going to real people and getting them to tell their stories," he told Klain. "That's her specialty."
Klain was tired, "really tired." But you can't exactly put off the vice president. "Sounds fine to me, it's great," Klain said to Gore.
"Well, Michael Whouley [Gore's chief political strategist] thinks that Erin Brockovich is a really bad idea. What do you think?"
"I don't know. This really isn't my part of it. Michael's down there running the political operation. If Michael thinks it, I'm sure it's right. I'm up here trying to deal, like, with Tallahassee."
"Well, I think Erin Brockovich would be great."
The call ended. Klain tried to go back to sleep, bemused by the conversation. Barely two days into the post election morass, and Gore was recruiting somebody he'd heard about in a movie. "Bring in a camel with three heads," Klain said later. "It just seemed like the whole thing's a huge menagerie at this point. Erin Brockovich--of course!"
Twenty minutes later the phone rang. It was Gore again. "I tried to call Bill [Daley, the campaign chairman], but his phone's off the hook and his cell's turned off."
"Silly me," thought Klain. "I'd kept mine on."
"I really want to go forward with this Erin Brockovich thing. Tell Bill in the morning we're going to do Brockovich."
It was the last Klain heard of it. Brockovich was not spotted in Florida during the 37 days.
George W. Bush attempts to recruit the help of Jack Danforth in the 2000 election
In Newsweek, David A. Kaplan writes:
Who would lead the legal effort for George W. Bush? The campaign immediately thought of a man who combined political smarts and moral rectitude--Jack Danforth, the retired GOP senator and Episcopal priest.
Two days after Election night, Danforth and his wife, Sally, were on their way to the Caribbean. Enjoying Margaritas by the turquoise sea in Cancun, the Danforths expected the week to themselves, far from the electoral struggle of friends back home. But before they finished a second drink at La Maroma, a hostess told Danforth he had a call. It was Don Evans, the Bush campaign chairman. "We want you to represent us in a federal challenge to the constitutionality of the manual recount in Florida," Evans said.
Danforth had concerns about a strategy that revolved around federal court, a venue that Republicans had been sniping about for decades. But it wasn't some philosophical inconsistency that worried him--that his party would be seeking salvation from the one branch of government it had learned to despise. No, he was afraid of losing.
"Don, I have three questions," Danforth told Evans. "Is there a chance of us prevailing? If not, what will this do to the reputation of Governor Bush? And what about logistics? I don't even have a coat and tie down here." So weak did Danforth consider any federal claim that any lawyer who filed it was jeopardizing his credibility.
The next morning, Evans called back and said, "We've thought about it and we want you to do this." If there were misgivings, they belonged to Danforth. As much as he might've liked to re-enter the political game, he couldn't imagine how a recount could automatically be unconstitutional.
The Bush campaign arranged to send a private plane to take Danforth to Tallahassee. Danforth checked out of the hotel, though he remained uneasy. He decided he needed to talk to Bush himself. In his next call with Evans--this time with the leader of Bush's team, Jim Baker, on the line as well--Danforth said so.
"Well, you're the lawyer," Baker agreed.
Danforth assumed they'd put him right through. The phone rang, but it was Evans again. "Jack," he said, "it sounds like your heart's not in this. Maybe it's best for you not to do it. Have a nice vacation."
"The vote in Bush v. Gore was, like all decisions at the High Court, arrived at in secret conference. But this one determined who would be president. We didn't know just how close it was--until now."
Excerpt from David A. Kaplan's book, The 'Accidental President,' as it appeared in the September 17, 2001 edition of Newsweek. This edition was on the newsstands on the morning of September 11, 2001 (taken off the newsstands and replaced two days later by a special edition covering the events of September 11, 2001):
As both campaigns and the entire country awaited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bush v. Gore, the vice president couldn't sit still. The vote would decide who'd win Election 2000. The process kept starting and stopping. Now, Gore needed to vent his emotions, with whatever degree of optimism he could muster.
So on Tuesday afternoon, December 12, Gore decided to write an Op-Ed for The New York Times, on the assumption the Court would rule in his favor. "As I write this," the piece began, "I do not know what the Supreme Court will decide." Gore repeated the themes of the five-week post-election struggle: count all the votes "so that the will of the people" was honored; work "for the agenda that Senator [Joe] Lieberman and I put forward in the campaign," which "50 million Americans" supported; and appreciate that history and the "integrity" of the national government demanded he fight on after Election Day.
Gore acknowledged that "no single institution had been capable of solving" the electoral standoff and that this resulted in "continued uncertainty." But the greater good, he contended, was being served. Invoking Lincoln and Jefferson, he mused on the "consent of the governed" and the "wellspring of democracy." Jefferson had "justified revolution" because the people of the colonies had not given their consent. How could the U.S. Supreme Court justices "claim for themselves" the right to determine the presidency? It was up to the people. He concluded by quoting Lincoln's First Inaugural, delivered a month before Fort Sumter: "Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people?"
It was only a draft, and Gore might've toned it down before publication, given its intimations of revolution and allusions to the Civil War. But it was strongly worded, all the more so as the justices had Bush v. Gore in front of them. The vice president phoned Walter Dellinger, a former solicitor general under Bill Clinton, for counsel. "I've spent the last few hours writing an Op-Ed for tomorrow's Times," Gore told him. "I want your judgment on whether I ought to run this or not."
Dellinger liked it, suggested some changes that Gore punched into his laptop, and they were done. Gore said he would send it to Bill Daley, the campaign chairman, for one last look. "Is there anything else I need to think about?" he asked Dellinger.
"As a lawyer, I wouldn't write an Op-Ed on a case I'd argued that was pending. But, then, you're not the lawyer. You're the client, so there's no rule about keeping silent." Dellinger then added, "But still, you should be thinking about whether running this would provoke the Court." After all, it was Gore who'd told aides after the recounts were halted over the weekend that no one in the campaign should "trash" the Court. Might this Op-Ed be regarded as the velvet-gloved equivalent?
"O.K., let me think about it."
Gore paused for only seconds, then made up his mind. He chuckled. Said the vice president of the United States about the Supreme Court: "----'em."
The few people in Goreworld who heard about his remark had the identical reaction: if he had only shown that kind of animation during the campaign, he wouldn't have been in the position of having to make the remark.
The Op-Ed never ran. Before the Times closed the piece, it became moot. At 10 p.m. on December 12, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling that made George W. Bush the president-elect.
That wrenching decision pitted the Court's five conservatives against its four liberals, producing vitriolic opinions not seen in a generation, in a case many thought the Court should not have taken in the first place because state elections weren't federal judicial matters. Yet within weeks of Bush v. Gore, many of the justices gave speeches trying to defuse the controversy. All was well at the High Court, they said; everybody had moved on. Given the public record, that seemed plausible. And because the Court's "conference"--where the Supremes, without clerks or anyone else, debate cases and render their votes--is ultra-secret, it's hard to pierce the judicial veil.
But behind the scenes, in remarkable post-decision moments previously unreported, the justices were stewing. In particular, the dissenters--Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens--couldn't believe what their conservative brethren had wrought. How could the conservative Court majority decide to step into a presidential election, all the more so using the doctrinal excuse of "equal protection"? Equal protection? That's the constitutional rationale the liberals had used for a generation to expand rights, and the conservatives despised it. But now the conservatives were embracing the doctrine, claiming that different recount standards in Florida counties amounted to unequal protection? The whole thing smelled bad.
When the justices' counterparts on the Russian Constitutional Court came to town for a private gathering, the American justices let slip the recriminations. Those scenes shed light on what transpired inside the High Court as the justices determined who'd be the next president--and on the raw emotional fallout from the fateful decision.
Given the hard feelings, the amazing aspect of Bush v. Gore is that it just might've gone the other way. Justice Anthony Kennedy--the key swing vote, the man the Court's law clerks once dubbed "Flipper" for his equivocations--had wavered, enough that Souter thought until the very end that he'd get him. If Kennedy could be flipped, the 5-to-4 ruling for Bush would become a 5-to-4 win for Gore. They'd find an equal-protection violation, send the case back to the Florida justices to fix standards and administer the best recount they could under the circumstances and before December 18, and then leave it to the political branches--the Florida Legislature and, if need be, the U.S. Congress--to settle for good. (The political composition of Congress and the Legislature suggests Bush probably would've won in the end anyway.) But the High Court's decision short-circuited the process. The vote was close. But we never knew--until now--just how close.
A month after the decision, Souter met at the Court with a group of prep-school students from Choate. Souter was put on the Court in 1990 by Bush's father, advertised as a "home run" for such constitutional crusades as overturning Roe v. Wade. Instead, Souter turned out to be a non-doctrinaire New Englander who typically sided with the liberal justices. It didn't make him a liberal--this was a passionately modest man in matters of law as well as life--as much as it reflected how far the rest of the Court had yawed starboard. Souter told the Choate students how frustrated he was that he couldn't broker a deal to bring in one more justice--Kennedy being the obvious candidate. Souter explained that he had put together a coalition back in 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the landmark abortion case in which the Court declined by a 5-to-4 vote to toss out Roe; Souter, along with Kennedy and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, took the unusual gesture of writing a joint opinion for the majority in that case.
If he'd had "one more day--one more day," Souter now told the Choate students, he believed he would have prevailed. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, had long ago become part of the Dark Side. O'Connor appeared beyond compromise. But Kennedy seemed within reach. Just give me 24 more hours on the clock, Souter thought. While a political resolution to the election--in the Florida Legislature or in the Congress--might not be quick and might be a brawl, Souter argued that the nation would still accept it. "It should be a political branch that issues political decisions," he said to the students. Kennedy, though, wouldn't flip. He thought the trauma of more recounts, more fighting--more politics--was too much for the country to endure. (Souter and Kennedy, as well as the other justices, declined to be interviewed on the record.)
Mild-mannered by nature, Kennedy had a grandiose view of his role. In a memorable profile of the justice in California Lawyer magazine back in 1992, Kennedy had agreed to let the writer into chambers just before going into the courtroom to announce a major ruling. "Sometimes you don't know if you're Caesar about to cross the Rubicon or Captain Queeg cutting your own towline," Kennedy ruminated to his listener. Then the justice self-consciously asked for solitude. "I need to brood," Kennedy said. "I generally brood, as all of us do on the bench, just before we go on." The difference was that most of them didn't do it on cue.
The margin of victory for George W. Bush wasn't 154, 165, 193 or 204 votes (depending on which numbers you believe from the abbreviated recounts). Nor is the operative margin Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris's initial number of 930. The sands of history will show Bush won by a single vote, cast in a 5-to-4 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. The vote was Tony Kennedy's. One justice had picked the president.
In a Virginia hotel, near the makeshift Bush transition office, Karl Rove--the campaign's political guru--was watching MSNBC when the Court ruling was announced. He called Bush in Texas; the governor was watching CNN, which took longer to decipher the opinions. "This is good news," Rove told Bush. "This is great news."
"No, no, this is bad news," Bush replied. Rove was the first person Bush talked to as the verdict came in--Bush had no sense initially he'd just been declared the winner by the stroke of the Court's pen. It was very confusing. "Where are you now?" he asked Rove.
"In the McLean Hilton--standing in my pajamas."
"Well, I'm in my pajamas, too," said the new president-elect.
Rove laughed at the vision of them both, at this historic moment, in their PJs. Soon enough, Bush talked to his field general, Jim Baker, who talked to Ted Olson and the other lawyers on the team. Within half an hour, Bush was convinced Gore had finally run out of tricks.
A month later, the animosities within the Court finally spilled over at a gathering inside the marble temple. It was a meeting known only to the participants, as well as a few translators and guests. Yet, in illuminating how Bush v. Gore came to be, it was the seminal event. It happened in January as Inauguration Day approached--after the 37 days of Florida, but while emotions were still raging. It was the time when the justices let their guards down, without knowing they were providing an X-ray into their hearts.
The Americans were playing host to special visitors from Russia. Their guests were six judges, all part of that country's decade-long experiment with freedom after Communism. It was the fifth gathering between the judges and their counterparts at the Supreme Court--an attempt by the most powerful tribunal in the world to impart some of its wisdom to a nascent system trying to figure out how constitutional law really worked in a democracy. It was by no means obvious. To outsiders, the idea that unelected judges who served for life could ultimately dictate the actions of the other two branches of American government, both popularly elected, was nothing short of unbelievable.
These were always collegial meetings inside the Supreme Court. This time--over the course of two days, January 9 and 10--seven American justices participated, everyone but Souter and Thomas. The justices from the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation--Yuri Rudkin, Nikolai Seleznev, Oleg Tyunov, and Gennady Zhilin--were joined by judges from the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Dagestan and the Constitutional Supervision Committee of the Republic of Northern Ossetia-Alania. They all met in the Court's private ceremonial conference rooms: for an informal reception, the blue-motif West Conference Room; for hours of discussions about law and American heritage, the rose-motif East Conference Room, with a portrait of the legendary 19th-century chief justice John Marshall above the fireplace.
But this year, the discussions weren't about general topics such as due process or free expression or separation of powers. Some of the Russians wanted to know how Bush v. Gore had come to pass--how it was that somebody other than the electorate decided who ran the government. That was the kind of thing that gave Communism a bad name. "In our country," a Russian justice said, bemused, "we wouldn't let judges pick the president." The justice added that he knew that, in various nations, judges were in the pocket of executive officials--he just didn't know that was so in the United States. It was a supremely ironic moment.
Bush v. Gore was the elephant in the room--the ruling was on the minds of the Russians, but would it be rude to raise it? Once one of them did, it elicited an extraordinary exchange, played out spontaneously and viscerally among the American justices, according to people in the room. It could have been a partial replay of the Court conference itself in Bush v. Gore.
Justices don't discuss their decisions with others. That's because their views are supposed to be within the four corners of their written opinions. A good legal opinion isn't supposed to need further explanation. Memorialized in the law books, a Court opinion spoke for itself to future generations. But Bush v. Gore was so lean in its analysis, so unconvincing in its reasoning, that it led all manner of observers to wonder just where the Court had been coming from. Maybe that's why some of the justices so readily engaged their guests.
Stephen Breyer, one of the dissenters and a Clinton appointee, was angry and launched into an attack on the decision, right in front of his colleagues. It was "the most outrageous, indefensible thing" the Court had ever done, he told the visiting justices. "We all agree to disagree, but this is different." Breyer was defiant, brimming with confidence he'd been right in his dissent. "However awkward or difficult" it might've been for Congress to resolve the presidency, Breyer had written, "Congress, being a political body, expresses the people's will far more accurately than does an unelected Court. And the people's will is what elections are about." To have judges do it instead--as the country learned in the Hayes-Tilden presidential stalemate of 1876--not only failed to legitimize the outcome, but stained the judiciary. That was "a self-inflicted wound" harming "not just the Court, but the nation."
In contrast to Breyer, Ginsburg--Clinton's other appointee--was more baffled than annoyed, attempting to rationalize the legitimacy of the ruling that so ripped away her confidence in the neutrality of the Court. "Are we so highly political, after all?" she said. "We've surely done other things, too, that were activist, but here we're applying the Equal Protection Clause in a way that would de-legitimize virtually every election in American history."
"I'm so tired," offered Justice John Paul Stevens. "I am just so exhausted." His weariness may have reflected the fact that he was the oldest member of the Court at 80--or that he'd been fighting these battles from the left for 24 years, and the number he won was decreasing.
O'Connor talked pedantically about the Electoral College, which, of course, had nothing to do with the Russians' curiosity. Rehnquist and Scalia--the intellectual firebrands on the Court's right flank--said almost nothing, leaving it up to a floundering Kennedy to try to explain a 5-to-4 ruling in which he was the decisive vote, the justice who gave the presidency to Bush. The virtual silence of Rehnquist and Scalia led some in the room to wonder if the two justices were basically admitting their ruling was intellectually insupportable, all the more in a setting where there might be give-and-take. Maybe they didn't think this was the right forum or audience in which to engage a debate. In any event, Kennedy was left holding the bag.
"Sometimes you have to be responsible and step up to the plate," Kennedy told the Russians. "You have to take responsibility." He prized order and stability. Chaos was the enemy. This was vintage Kennedy, who loved to thump his chest about the burden of it all. For example, back in the controversial 1989 decision that flag-burning was protected by the First Amendment, Kennedy joined the 5-to-4 majority, but dramatized his discomfort. "This case, like others before us from time to time, exacts its personal toll," he wrote. "The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like."
Everything Kennedy did or thought seemed to him to carry great weight. It had to--he was a justice of the Supreme Court. It was as if Kennedy kept telling himself, and us, that--but for him and his role--the Republic might topple. In Bush v. Gore, that meant entering the breach to save the Union from an electoral muddle that could go on and on. The equal-protection stuff? That was the best he could come up with on short notice. It was apparently no big deal that there was another branch of the government right across the street--democratically elected, politically accountable, and specifically established by the Constitution, as well as by federal statute, to finally determine a disputed presidential election. "Congress" wasn't even mentioned in the opinions by the Court's conservatives. Congress was the appropriate, co-equal branch not because it was wisest, but because it was legitimate.
What was Kennedy's explanation for becoming the deus ex machina? It was Bush and Gore who should be blamed for bringing their problems to the Court. "When contending parties invoke the process of the courts," he wrote, "it becomes our unsought responsibility to resolve the federal and constitutional issues the judicial system has been forced to confront." But that was theatrical nonsense. The justices refused to hear 99 percent of the appeals they were asked to take. Since 1925, their discretion was unbridled--they could decline to take a case because it failed to raise significant issues, because the questions involved were purely state affairs, because they'd decided a similar appeal in recent years, or for no reason at all. Accepting jurisdiction in the presidential election of 2000 showed not respect for the rule of law, but the hubris of kings. Any imminent constitutional "crisis" was only in the imaginations of the justices.
Nobody "forced" Kennedy or four of his brethren to hear Bush v. Gore. In the very first instance, they had to choose who chose--whether the Court or Congress was the proper branch to settle the presidential dispute. The justices chose themselves.
Sunday, September 16, 2001
MR. TIM RUSSERT: And we are Greentop in the shadows of the presidential retreat at Camp David. Mr. Vice President, good morning and welcome.
VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: Good morning, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: This is the first television program to originate from here, which underscores the seriousness of our discussion this morning. The president, the vice president, the national security team have been meeting for the last 36 hours. What can you share with the American people this morning?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, Tim, this is the first chance we've had really since the events this week to sit down and really focus on various plans and propositions, things we ought to be doing going forward. Up till now it's been focused very much on trying to manage the crisis and to deal with the problems of the immediate situation. But yesterday we've been able to come up and get everybody together, a lot of work done, staff work done in preparation for it and sit down and really spend some time looking at what our strategy ought to be and how we ought to proceed.
MR. RUSSERT: When the president went to the World Trade Center on Friday he said, "The people who did this will hear from all of us soon." There's an expectation in the country that we're about to pay back big time, quickly. What should the American people think or feel about that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think the important thing here, Tim, is for people to understand that, you know, things have changed since last Tuesday. The world shifted in some respects. Clearly, what we're faced with here is a situation where terrorism is struck home in the United States. We've been subject to targets of terrorist attacks before, especially overseas with our forces and American personnel overseas, but this time because of what happened in New York and what happened in Washington, it's a qualitatively different set of circumstances.
It's also important for people to understand that this is a long-term proposition. It's not like, well, even Desert Storm where we had a buildup for a few months, four days of combat, and it was over with. This is going to be the kind of work that will probably take years because the focus has to be not just on any one individual, the problem here is terrorism. And even in this particular instance, it looks as though the responsible organization was a group called al-Qaida. It's Arabic for "The Base."
MR. RUSSERT: That's Osama bin Laden.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: He headed it up and organized it, but it's a very broad, kind of loose coalition of groupings that includes not only his forces but it also includes, for example, Islamic Jihad from Egypt. It includes a movement from is Uzbekistan. The groups that are terrorist organizations, people that oftentimes move around them, sometimes share common ideologies that operate on a worldwide basis. And what we have to do is take down those networks of terrorist organizations, and as say I think this is going to be a struggle that the United States is going to be involved in for the foreseeable future. There's not going to be an end date that we say, "There, it's all over with." It's going to require constant vigilance on our part to avoid problems in the future, but it's also going to require a major effort and, obviously, quite possibly use of military force.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that anyone who participated in the events on Tuesday or, in fact, even in a support role, or on a plane that wasn't successfully hijacked, are they still at large in the United States?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don't know. The possibility clearly exists that there could be additional terrorists out there that were part of this operation that maybe got cold feet and didn't get on the airplane, or for one reason or another were thwarted in their efforts. We have to assume that possibility exists. We had these 19 individuals in the United States, some of them for several years, training, preparing, getting ready for this operation and we can by no means assume now that that's all there is. There may well be other operations that have been planned and are, in fact, in the works.
MR. RUSSERT: When the president said, "Everyone in uniform get ready," did that--does that suggest a massive call-up of reserves?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We've had some reserve call-up. We called up, of course, 35,000 reservists. We felt that was important to do here. I think the way to think about it, Tim, is to think about the target and what our objectives are here. Obviously, we're interested in individuals who were directly involved in planning, coordinating, ordering the attack. And--but those tend to be individuals or small groupings of individuals, cells, perhaps, various places around the world. We need to go find them and root them out. And--but we also--what's different here, what's changed in terms of U.S. policy, is the president's determination to also go after those nations and organizations and people that lend support to these terrorist operators.
If you've got a nation out there now that has provided a base, training facilities, a sanctuary, as has been true, for example, in this case, probably with Afghanistan, then they have to understand, and others like them around the world have to understand, that if you provide sanctuary to terrorists, you face the full wrath of the United States of America. And that we will, in fact, aggressively go after these nations to make certain that they cease and desist from providing support for these kinds of organizations.
MR. RUSSERT: Full wrath. That's a very strong statement to the Afghans this morning.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: It is, indeed. It is, indeed.
MR. RUSSERT: The president said that Osama bin Laden was the prime suspect. Why?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: There is just a lot of evidence to link his organization, the al-Qaida organization, and he is the head of al-Qaida, to this operation. There are some ties, for example, to some of the people involved here back to the U.S.S. Cole bombing in Yemen. We're able to tell--going back now looking at relationships and the way they've operated in the past, we're quite confident that, in fact, as the president said, he is the prime suspect. That doesn't mean we know all there is to know yet. That doesn't mean there weren't others involved. As I mentioned, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad has a very close working relationship with this organization. So there may well be others. We want to continue to investigate aggressively to make sure we've wrapped up and understand fully all who were involved. But clearly, the evidence at this point takes us very much in that direction.
MR. RUSSERT: You have no doubt that Osama bin Laden played some role in this.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I have no doubt that he and his organization played a significant role in this.
MR. RUSSERT: Were you surprised by the precision and sophistication of the operation?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, certainly, we were surprised in the sense that, you know, there had been information coming in that a big operation was planned, but that's sort of a trend that you see all the time in these kinds of reports. But we didn't...
MR. RUSSERT: No specific threat?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No specific threat involving really a domestic operation or involving what happened, obviously, the cities, airliner and so forth. We did go on alert with our overseas forces a number of times during the course of the summer when we thought the threat level had risen significantly. So clearly, we were surprised by what happened here. On the other hand, in terms of the sophistication of it, it's interesting to look at, because clearly what happened is you got some people committed to die in the course of the operation, you got them visas, you got them entered into the United States. They came here. Some of them enrolled in our commercial aviation schools and learned to fly, courtesy of our own capabilities here in the United States. Then what they needed in order to execute was some degree of coordination, obviously, in terms of timing. But they needed knives, cardboard cutters, razor blades, whatever it was, and an airline ticket. And that's it. They then were able to take over the aircraft and use our own, you know, heavily loaded with fuel large aircraft to take over and use it.
MR. RUSSERT: Intentionally choosing planes that had lots of fuel and a few passengers?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: It certainly looks that way. And the--so the sophisticated--on the one hand it's very simple. It doesn't involve a lot of hardware or complex devices that they have to bring into the United States. They, in effect, turned some of our own system against us, but its simplicity does, in fact, also speak volumes in terms of planning, creativity, ingenuity in terms of how they go about these kinds of operations.
MR. RUSSERT: We clearly will have to revisit our visa procedures.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We ought to look at all aspects of the operation here in terms of what happened. Clearly there are going to be a lot of lessons to be learned from it. But it's important for us, too, not to get trapped into thinking if we just guard against another situation where terrorists can hijack airplanes and use them to hit vital targets in the U.S. that we've dealt with the problem. I'm sure they're out there right now thinking about new, creative ways to come after us that don't involve any of those techniques at all, but something totally new.
MR. RUSSERT: Osama bin Laden released a training video, 100 minutes long, which was obtained by the Western media this summer, and I want to show a portion of that to you and give you a chance to respond to it, and we'll play it right now. These are followers of his chanting, "We have to fight every day, even to the shedding of blood in God's righteous path." There he is himself with his own rifle. They go on to say, "We thank God for granting us victory the day we destroyed the Cole in the sea." That's the U.S.S. destroyer that was hit last year. Those are his supporters marching. There you are as secretary of Defense visiting Saudi Arabia, used in this video to rally support for Osama bin Laden. And bin Laden himself, "We have to practice the way of the suicidal commandos of faith and the heroism of the resistance fighter and we refuse their culture and we will take advantage of their misfortunes and the blood of their wounded." He goes on to say, Mr. Secretary, that, "With small capabilities we can defeat the U.S. America is much weaker than it appears." What's your message this morning to Osama bin Laden?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think he seriously misreads the American people. I think the--I mean, you have to ask yourself, why somebody would do what he does. Why is someone so motivated? Obviously he's filled with hate for the United States and for everything we stand for...
MR. RUSSERT: Why?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: ...freedom and democracy.
MR. RUSSERT: Why does he hate us so much?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: It must have something to do with his background, his own upbringing. He's the son of a prominent Saudi family, successful business group with significant wealth. He went and served in Afghanistan with the mujahedeen during the war against the Russians, and he has, for whatever reason, developed this intense hatred of everything that relates to the United States. And his objective, obviously, is to try to influence our behavior to force us to withdraw from that part of the world, and clearly he's not going to be successful. And...
MR. RUSSERT: He has stated unequivocally that he wants the United States out of the Middle East. He no longer wants the United States to be the ally of Israel. Will our relationship with Israel change in any way, shape or form because of this event?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. The fact of the matter is that the--we'll not allow him to achieve his aims. We're not about to change our policies or change our basic fundamental beliefs. What we are going to do is aggressively go after Mr. bin Laden, obviously, and all of his associates, and even if it takes a long time, I'm convinced eventually we'll prevail.
MR. RUSSERT: There is an FBI wanted poster, and there he is himself, wanted for the murder of US nationals outside the United States. He's under indictment for his involvement in blowing up embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Could we say to the Afghanistan government, "You are harboring a fugitive from justice. Give him over in 48 hours or we're coming in and taking him"?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We could say such a thing.
MR. RUSSERT: Legally?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, legally certainly. I'll simply restate again, Tim, I don't want to get into the business of predicting what specific steps we will take. But without question, the president has been very, very clear that to harbor terrorists is to, in effect, accept a certain degree of guilt for the acts that they commit. And the government of Afghanistan has to understand that we believe they have, indeed, been harboring a man who committed, and whose organization committed, this most recent egregious act.
MR. RUSSERT: You're convinced he's still in Afghanistan?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don't know.
MR. RUSSERT: Is there any international law or United States law which would prohibit us from killing him if we found him?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Not in my estimation, Tim. But I'd have to check with the lawyers on that, obviously. Lawyers always have a role to play, but one of the intriguing things here is the way in which people have rallied around, other governments have rallied around this notion that, in fact, this is a war. We've seen our NATO allies for the first time in history invoke Article 5, an attack against one is an attack against all. It's never before been done. They unanimously agreed to that proposition earlier this week in Brussels.
I think the world increasingly will understand what we have here are a group of barbarians, that they threaten all of us, that the U.S. is the target at the moment, but one of the things to remember is if you look at the roster of countries who lost people in the bombing in New York, over 40 countries have had someone killed or have significant numbers missing. The British, for example, have an estimated 100 dead and 500 to 700 still missing. So it's an attack not just upon the United States but upon, you know, civilized society.
MR. RUSSERT: A very important country in all this is Pakistan, on the border of Afghanistan. Pakistan--there are reports on the wires today--has sent a delegation to the Taliban government in Afghanistan saying it's time to turn Osama bin Laden over. The Pakistan government is also saying to its people this morning, "We will get more aid from the United States. The United States will lift economic sanctions against us. And we've been given assurances that the Indian government and the Israeli government will not be part of any military operation based in Pakistan." Can you confirm that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I've seen some communication back and forth at this point. Let me simply say we have had discussions with the Paks. President Bush called President Musharraf just yesterday afternoon from Camp David. They've had a good conversation. We have made certain requests of the Pakistanis. They have agreed to work with us in this endeavor, and some of that's covered in the statement they've made there.
MR. RUSSERT: They will get more assistance from us.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, we'd like to be able to work with them. You've got to remember, Pakistan's been a close friend and ally of the United States in the past. The relationship's been somewhat strained in recent years primarily because congressionally imposed sanctions have had an adverse effect, clearly, on the relationship, and the sanctions were imposed as the Pakistanis developed nuclear weapons. But we're clearly in a situation here where that relationship is important. It's important to us. It's important to Pakistan. Pakistan borders Afghanistan; they one of only three countries that have diplomatic relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan. They can be very helpful in this case, and we expect they will be.
MR. RUSSERT: And there's nothing wrong with providing economic rewards for helpful behavior.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think you're going to want both the carrot and the stick approach.
MR. RUSSERT: Pakistan also has a nuclear capability. How dangerous is it for that government to come out against Osama bin Laden or be helpful to the United States? Are we concerned about destabilizing Pakistan with nuclear capability, a capability that could fall in the hands of the Taliban or Osama bin Laden?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, we're clearly very sensitive to those kinds of problems. Any time you're dealing in that part of the world in the Middle East, the potential for instability always exists. You could have a change in government in relatively short notice, and we're well aware of all that. But it also--it's one of the reasons, frankly, you'll see the al-Qaida organization, Osama bin Laden, choosing to locate in that part of the world because it is an area of instability, because there are places that nobody really controls. And those are the areas we're going to have to operate in if we're going to be successful.
And again, the key here to keep in mind is that what we're asking nations to do, and which the Paks have clearly made a decision to do, is we're asking nations to step up and be counted. They're going to have to decide. Are they going to stand with the United States and believe in freedom and democracy and civilization, or are they going to stand with the terrorists and the barbarians, if you will? And it's a fairly clear-cut choice. And I'm delighted to see that Pakistan has, in fact, stepped up to the task.
MR. RUSSERT: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan--three critical countries in the Middle East, who have been somewhat supportive of the United States. They also have segments of their population that look at Osama bin Laden as a hero. If we demand that they support us, do we risk destabilizing those governments?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No, I think you've got to recognize from the standpoint of the Saudis, for example, they're a prime target for this organization of terrorists, Osama bin Laden. He adamantly opposes the Saudi royal family. Probably second only to the United States would be his hatred for the current government in Saudi Arabia. With respect to Egypt, for example, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, these are groups and organizations that have threatened the government of Egypt in the past. President Mubarak's been the target of several assassination attempts during the course of his career; some of them promulgated by these kinds of groups and organizations. So I think governments, friends of the United States, the governments you mentioned, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc., they understand very clearly that it's as much in their interest as it is in ours that we end these kinds of activities and that we put a stop to this kind of international terrorism. And I think they'll be prepared to help us.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Vice President, how difficult and delicate is it to send this message that we're going to uproot terrorism and Osama bin Laden and some other cells, but that this is not a war against Islam and not a war against all Arab people?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We have to continually remind folks of that. The president has been very clear, and it would be a huge mistake for we as Americans to assume that this represents some kind of--or should lead us to some kind of condemnation of Islam. It's clearly not the case. This is a perversion, if you will, of some of these religious beliefs by an extremist group. We have extremists associated with, you know, every imaginable religion in the world. But this is by no means a war against Islam. We've got a great many Arab Americans, for example, who are first class, loyal American citizens. We need to make certain that we don't make the mistake of assuming that everybody who comes from a certain ethnic group or certain religious background is somehow to be blamed for this. Clearly, that's not the case. They are as appalled by it as we are.
MR. RUSSERT: When Osama bin Laden took responsibility for blowing up the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, U.S. embassies, several hundred died, the United States launched 60 tomahawk missiles into his training sites in Afghanistan. It only emboldened him. It only inspired him and seemed even to increase his recruitment. Is it safe to say that that kind of response is not something we're considering, in that kind of minute magnitude?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I'm going to be careful here, Tim, because I--clearly it would be inappropriate for me to talk about operational matters, specific options or the kinds of activities we might undertake going forward. We do, indeed, though, have, obviously, the world's finest military. They've got a broad range of capabilities. And they may well be given missions in connection with this overall task and strategy.
We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful. That's the world these folks operate in, and so it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.
MR. RUSSERT: There have been restrictions placed on the United States intelligence gathering, reluctance to use unsavory characters, those who violated human rights, to assist in intelligence gathering. Will we lift some of those restrictions?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Oh, I think so. I think the--one of the by-products, if you will, of this tragic set of circumstances is that we'll see a very thorough sort of reassessment of how we operate and the kinds of people we deal with. There's--if you're going to deal only with sort of officially approved, certified good guys, you're not going to find out what the bad guys are doing. You need to be able to penetrate these organizations. You need to have on the payroll some very unsavory characters if, in fact, you're going to be able to learn all that needs to be learned in order to forestall these kinds of activities. It is a mean, nasty, dangerous dirty business out there, and we have to operate in that arena. I'm convinced we can do it; we can do it successfully. But we need to make certain that we have not tied the hands, if you will, of our intelligence communities in terms of accomplishing their mission.
MR. RUSSERT: These terrorists play by a whole set of different rules. It's going to force us, in your words, to get mean, dirty and nasty in order to take them on, right? And they should realize there will be more than simply a pinprick bombing.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yeah, the--I think it's--the thing that I sense--and, of course, that's only been a few days, but I have never seen such determination on the part of--well, my colleagues in government, on the part of the American people, on the part of our friends and allies overseas, and even on the part of some who are not ordinarily deemed friends of the United States, determined in this particular instance to shift and not be tolerant any longer of these kinds of actions or activities.
MR. RUSSERT: Even if we take out Osama bin Laden, that will not stop terrorism.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. No. He's the target at the moment. But I don't want to convey the impression that somehow, you know, if we had his head on a platter today, that that would solve the problem. It won't. You've got this organization, as I say, called al-Qaida. It's--somebody described it the other day as--it's like an Internet chat room, that people who come and participate in it, for one reason or another, engage in terrorism, have sometimes different motives and ideologies, but the tactics they use, the way they operate, their targets, that will continue until we go out, basically, and make the world unsafe for terrorists. And that's a key part of the strategy, in terms of working aggressively with those nations that have previously provided support and sustenance and sanctuary, to see to it that they no longer do that.
MR. RUSSERT: You wouldn't mind having his head on a platter.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I would take it today.
MR. RUSSERT: Saddam Hussein, your old friend, his government had this to say: "The American cowboy is rearing the fruits of crime against humanity." If we determine that Saddam Hussein is also harboring terrorists, and there's a track record there, would we have any reluctance of going after Saddam Hussein?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No.
MR. RUSSERT: Do we have evidence that he's harboring terrorists?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: There is--in the past, there have been some activities related to terrorism by Saddam Hussein. But at this stage, you know, the focus is over here on al-Qaida and the most recent events in New York. Saddam Hussein's bottled up, at this point, but clearly, we continue to have a fairly tough policy where the Iraqis are concerned.
MR. RUSSERT: Do we have any evidence linking Saddam Hussein or Iraqis to this operation?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the events of Tuesday. Where were you when you first learned a plane had struck the World Trade Center?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I was in my office Tuesday morning. Monday, I had been in Kentucky, and the president had been in the White House. Tuesday, our roles were sort of reversed. He was in Florida, and I was in the White House Tuesday morning. And a little before 9, my speechwriter came in. We were going to go over some speeches coming up. And my secretary called in just as we were starting to meet just before 9:00 and said an airplane had hit the World Trade Center, and that was the first one that went in. So we turned on the television and watched for a few minutes, and then actually saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. And the--as soon as that second plane showed up, that's what triggered the thought: terrorism, that this was an attack...
MR. RUSSERT: You sensed it immediately, "This is deliberate"?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yeah. Then I convened in my office. Condi Rice came down. Her office is right near mine there in the West Wing.
MR. RUSSERT: The national security adviser.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: National security adviser, my chief of staff, Scooter Libby, Mary Matalin, who works for me, convened in my office, and we started talking about getting the Counterterrorism Task Force up and operating. I talked with the president. I'd given word to Andy Card's staff, who is right next door, to get hold of Andy and/or the president and that I wanted to talk to him as soon as they could hook it up. This call came in, and the president knew at this point about that. We discussed a statement that he might make, and the first statement he made describing this as an act of apparent terrorism flowed out of those conversations. While I was there, over the next several minutes, watching developments on the television and as we started to get organized to figure out what to do, my Secret Service agents came in and, under these circumstances, they just move. They don't say "sir" or ask politely. They came in and said, "Sir, we have to leave immediately," and grabbed me and...
MR. RUSSERT: Literally grabbed you and moved you?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yeah. And, you know, your feet touch the floor periodically. But they're bigger than I am, and they hoisted me up and moved me very rapidly down the hallway, down some stairs, through some doors and down some more stairs into an underground facility under the White House, and, as a matter of fact, it's a corridor, locked at both ends, and they did that because they had received a report that an airplane was headed for the White House.
MR. RUSSERT: This is Flight 77, which had left Dulles.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Which turned out to be Flight 77. It left Dulles, flown west towards Ohio, been captured by the terrorists. They turned off the transponder, which led to a later report that a plane had gone down in Ohio, but it really hadn't. Of course, then they turned back and headed back towards Washington. As best we can tell, they came initially at the White House and...
MR. RUSSERT: The plane actually circled the White House?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Didn't circle it, but was headed on a track into it. The Secret Service has an arrangement with the F.A.A. They had open lines after the World Trade Center was...
MR. RUSSERT: Tracking it by radar.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: And when it entered the danger zone and looked like it was headed for the White House was when they grabbed me and evacuated me to the basement. The plane obviously didn't hit the White House. It turned away and, we think, flew a circle and came back in and then hit the Pentagon. And that's what the radar track looks like. The result of that--once I got down into the shelter, the first thing I did--there's a secure phone there. First thing I did was pick up the telephone and call the president again, who was still down in Florida, at that point, and strongly urged him to delay his return.
MR. RUSSERT: You told him to stay away from Washington.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I said, `Delay your return. We don't know what's going on here, but it looks like, you know, we've been targeted.'
MR. RUSSERT: Why did you make that judgment?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, it goes to--you know, sort of my basic role as vice president is to worry about presidential succession. And my job, above all other things, is to be prepared to take over if something happens to the president. But over the years from my time with President Ford, as secretary of Defense, on the Intel Committee and so forth, I've been involved in a number of programs that were aimed at ensuring presidential succession. We did a lot of planning during the Cold War, Tim, with respect to the possibility of a nuclear incident. And one of the key requirements always is to protect the presidency. It's not about George Bush or Dick Cheney. It's about the occupant in the office.
And one of the things that we did later on that day were tied directly to guaranteeing presidential succession, and that our enemies, whoever they might be, could not decapitate the federal government and leave us leaderless in a moment of crisis. That's why, for example, when we have a State of the Union speech and we've got the entire government assembled--the president, vice president, congressional leaders, Cabinet and so forth--we always leave a Cabinet member out. He's always taken to a secure location and set up there in case something should happen in the House chambers so we still have a president.
MR. RUSSERT: Did you have any role in Speaker Hastert...
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: ...speaker of the House being taken away?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We evacuated Speaker Hastert to a secure facility, and later, the rest of the congressional leadership. I also ordered the evacuation of Cabinet members. And so we sent Tommy Thompson, Ann Veneman, Gale Norton also up to a secure facility. And in the days since, we've always maintained to say--I've spent a good deal of my time up at Camp David since the president returned to the White House just so we weren't both together in the same place so we could ensure the survival of the government.
The president was on Air Force One. We received a threat to Air Force One--came through the Secret Service...
MR. RUSSERT: A credible threat to Air Force One. You're convinced of that.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I'm convinced of that. Now, you know, it may have been phoned in by a crank, but in the midst of what was going on, there was no way to know that. I think it was a credible threat, enough for the Secret Service to bring it to me. Once I left that immediate shelter, after I talked to the president, urged him to stay away for now, well, I went down into what's call a PEOC, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, and there, I had Norm Mineta...
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary of Transportation.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: ...secretary of Transportation, access to the FAA. I had Condi Rice with me and several of my key staff people. We had access, secured communications with Air Force One, with the secretary of Defense over in the Pentagon. We had also the secure videoconference that ties together the White House, CIA, State, Justice, Defense--a very useful and valuable facility. We have the counterterrorism task force up on that net. And so I was in a position to be able to see all the stuff coming in, receive reports and then make decisions in terms of acting with it.
But when I arrived there within a short order, we had word the Pentagon's been hit. We had word the State Department had been bombed, that a car bomb had gone off at the State Department. Turned out not to be true, but we didn't know that at the time. We had a report that Norm had provided that there were six airplanes that might have been hijacked, and that's what we started working off of, was that list of six.
Now we could account for two of them in New York. The third one we didn't know what had happened to it. It turned out it had hit the Pentagon. But the first reports on the Pentagon attack suggested a helicopter, and then later, a private jet, and it was only after we got ahold of some eyewitnesses that we knew it was an American Airlines flight. So then we had three planes accounted for, but we still have had three outstanding.
We had reports of planes down in Ohio, turned out not to be true; down in Pennsylvania; turned out that was true. And all of that--excuse me--added with the report of a perspective attack on Air Force One itself, we'd have been absolute fools not to go into button down mode, make sure we had successors evacuated, make sure the president was safe and secure. Offutt was a good location for that purpose, and also the president...
MR. RUSSERT: In Nebraska.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: In Nebraska.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you convinced there were only four hijackings, that there were not other hijacks attempted that we don't know about?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don't know. We know there were four, of course. I don't think until we've completed our investigation, looked at all the ties and relationships, we'll be able to say that there were no other plans for additional planes.
MR. RUSSERT: When you made the recommendation to the president, "Stay where you are, go to a secure facility in Nebraska," were you ever concerned, did it ever enter your thought process that there would be criticism of the president for not coming back to Washington during a crisis?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I didn't really think about it. I mean, it was such a clear-cut case, in my estimation, that the most important thing here is to preserve the presidency. We don't know what's happening. We know Washington's under attack. We don't know by who, we don't know how many additional planes are coming. We don't know what all is planned for us, at this point. Within about 35 or 40 minutes, we'd seen this unfolding of this monstrous terrorist attack, and it was absolutely the right decision. I have no qualms about it at all. The president wanted to come back. We talked repeatedly during the course of the day. He made it clear he wanted him back as soon as we thought it made sense. The Secret Service did not want him back. They even talked to me to try to get me to evacuate a couple of times, but I didn't want to leave the node that we'd established there, in terms of having all of this capability tied together by communications where we could, in fact, make decisions and act. And if I'd have left, gotten on a helicopter and launched out of the White House, all of that would have been broken down. And we had the presidential succession pretty well guaranteed, so I thought it was appropriate for me to stay in the White House.
MR. RUSSERT: Symbolisms are so important to terrorists. The fact that George Bush stayed at the White House, you came to Camp David. Are you concerned that that sends a mixed message to the terrorists that they can disrupt our government, or do you err on the side of caution and safety and keep the two key leaders separated?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, we erred on the side of, I'd say, responsibility. The--when something like this happens, we've got certain obligations and responsibilities you've got to carry out. And those took priority. They did for the president. They did for me. Also with modern communications--I mean, the president was in touch with me throughout the day. We talked repeatedly. He made some key decisions that were very important to the operation. Once he got to Offutt, he convened a meeting of the National Security Council again using the secure video conference hookup and...
MR. RUSSERT: What's the most important decision you think he made during the course of the day?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, the--I suppose the toughest decision was this question of whether or not we would intercept incoming commercial aircraft.
MR. RUSSERT: And you decided?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We decided to do it. We'd, in effect, put a flying combat air patrol up over the city; F-16s with an AWACS, which is an airborne radar system, and tanker support so they could stay up a long time. It doesn't do any good to put up a combat air patrol if you don't give them instructions to act, if, in fact, they feel it's appropriate.
MR. RUSSERT: So if the United States government became aware that a hijacked commercial airline was destined for the White House or the Capitol, we would take the plane down?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yes. The president made the decision, on my recommendation as well, wholeheartedly conquered in the decision he made, that if the plane would not divert, if they wouldn't pay any attention to instructions to move away from the city, as a last resort, our pilots were authorized to take them out. Now, people say, you know, that's a horrendous decision to make. Well, it is. You've got an airplane full of American citizens, civilians, captured by hostages, captured by terrorists, headed and are you going to, in fact, shoot it down, obviously, and kill all those Americans on board? And you have to ask yourself, "If we had had combat air patrol up over New York and we'd had the opportunity to take out the two aircraft that hit the World Trade Center, would we have been justified in doing that?" I think absolutely we would have. Now, it turned out we did not have to execute on that authorization. But there were some--a few moments when we thought we might, when planes were incoming and we didn't know whether or not they were a problem aircraft until they'd diverted and gone elsewhere and been able to resolve it.
MR. RUSSERT: And that will be the policy of the United States in the future?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, the president will, I'm sure, make a decision, if those circumstances arise again. It's a presidential-level decision, and the president made, I think, exactly the right call in this case, to say, "I wished we'd had combat air patrol up over New York."
MR. RUSSERT: More and more, Mr. Vice President, we're finding out, it appears, that the fourth plane that crashed in Pennsylvania crashed because of some real heroism by Americans. Jeremy Glick had received a--called his wife to say he'd been hijacked. She informed him that two planes had struck the World Trade Center. And he said, "I think we have to do something."
VICE PRES. CHENEY: It's true. I think the Washington part of the attack was significantly interfered with. I'm speculating. Some of this is informed speculation; some of it's based on some evidence. But clearly, we know the plane that crashed outside Pittsburgh was headed for Washington. We know it was part of the scheme. Mr. Glick and others--Mr. Burnett--were very courageous when they made that decision, knowing that they were doomed.
MR. RUSSERT: And you've told his wife that, haven't you?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I called Mrs. Glick yesterday, as a matter of fact. Haven't been able to reach Mrs. Burnett yet, but I'm going to call her, too. And I'm sure there were probably others on the aircraft who helped, but what they did was to foil, I think, the attack on Washington. My guess is, speculation, that target probably would have been the Capitol building. It's big; it's easy to hit. I think one of the reasons that the White House did not get hit, I think it turned out to be tougher to see than they had anticipated. When you come in from the west, as American 77 did, unless you get up altitude a ways, you can't see the White House because the Executive Office Building is there.
MR. RUSSERT: And Treasury on the other side.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Treasury on the other side. And I'm speculating that the lack of ability to be able to acquire it visually may, in fact, have led them to go back.
MR. RUSSERT: Gave it up as a target...
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...and went to the Pentagon, which is clearly visible?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: And went to the Pentagon instead. And speculation on my part. We'll never know for sure. But without question, the attack would have been much worse if it hadn't been for the courageous acts of those individuals on United 93.
MR. RUSSERT: Two important symbols. Should the World Trade Center be rebuilt?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think we clearly want to redevelop that area. Exactly what it ought to--what it ought to look like and what will go in there, those are decisions that are going to have to be made by New York officials. But the president's very interested in supporting those efforts, and I'm absolutely convinced that that's the right thing to do. We don't let terrorists prevail in this day and age.
MR. RUSSERT: Should Ronald Reagan National Airport be re-opened?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We've got to find ways to deal with that problem. It's been controversial from time to time over the years. But, of course, we've always kept Ronald Reagan open because of its location. It's very convenient for people living in Washington. The problem we have is, of course, that on the approach or takeoff from Reagan, you fly right up the Potomac and you're within seconds or a minute or two of being able to hit the White House, the Congress, important facilities in Washington. And finding the way to deal with those circumstances is going to have to precede, I think, a re-opening of the airport.
MR. RUSSERT: So it may be closed for some time.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don't know yet. I mean, Norm Mineta is working aggressively on this and--but we did--especially this week, we wanted to be supercautious. As long as there was the possibility there might be other teams out there that, in fact, planned the same kind of operation that the terrorists undertook on Tuesday. We thought it was prudent to keep it closed for now.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Vice President, we have to take a quick break. We'll be right back with more of our discussion with Vice President Dick Cheney. We're at Greentop in the shadows of Camp David. Be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: A lot more questions for the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, right after this.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back talking to Vice President Dick Cheney. He's been here at Camp David speaking with the president and the national security team for the last 36 hours at least.
Mr. Vice President, a lot of discussion as to our preparedness. The first hijacking was confirmed at 8:20, the Pentagon was struck at 9:40, and yet, it seems we were not able to scramble fighter jets in time to protect the Pentagon and perhaps even more than that. There have been at least five serious reports on domestic terrorism, how to cope with it, one given to you in May, Cheney to Lead Anti-Terrorism Plan. Were we ready for this?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Were we ready for it? I think the agencies responded very well once it happened. I think the courage and the bravery of the men and women of New York, for example, the first responders, if you will, fire and rescue teams, many of whom gave their lives when the towers collapsed, was superb. I don't think you can take anything away from them. But the problem you have here--I mean, if you think about it from the standpoint of aircraft--do we train our pilots to shoot down commercial airliners filled with American civilians? No. That's not a mission they've ever been given before. Now we've got to think about that.
With respect to the intelligence area, there'll be, I'm sure, a lot of sort of Monday morning quarterbacking, second-guessing, if you will, about whether or not there was an intelligence failure. Clearly, we did not learn of this operation or we would have stopped it if we had. But I think it's important to remember that our men and women in the intelligence business out there all over the world 365 days a year, defending and protecting us, oftentimes very successful, oftentimes in ways we can never talk about, but we clearly need to do everything we can to forestall those kinds of activities by improving our intelligence capabilities, and this offers a lot of lessons learned.
At the same time, the key, though, is to go eliminate the terrorists. We may never have 100 percent perfection in terms of our intelligence capabilities to be able to penetrate and know about all these kinds of operations--Timothy McVeigh, for example, in Oklahoma City. But if we go after the terrorists, if we deny them sanctuary, if we take out their bases and their locations where they operate, that's probably the most effective way to deal with this threat. But we have to recognize, no matter how good we are, no matter how aggressively we pursue this, we're likely to be subject to that partly by the very nature of our society. We're an open society, we love it that way, that's very important to preserve that, and not to let the terrorists win by turning ourselves into some kind of police state.
MR. RUSSERT: The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said this is a failure of great dimension in terms of intelligence. Will George Tenet remain as director of the CIA?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think George clearly should remain as director of the CIA. I think--I've had great confidence in him. I've watched him operate now and worked closely with him for the last seven or eight months. I think he and his people do superb work for us. And I think it would be a tragedy if somehow we were to go back now in the search for scapegoats and say that George Tenet or any other official ought to be eliminated at this point. I don't think you can say that.
MR. RUSSERT: When Air Force One returned to Washington, we saw it accompanied by fighter jets.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: General Norman Schwarzkopf, a man you know well, has suggested that perhaps in the short term, at least, Air Force One should be accompanied by fighter jets while flying over the United States just as a precaution.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Perhaps. I don't know that we've made that judgment yet, that decision yet. You know, what happened on Tuesday--of course, once we got all the aircraft grounded, that gave us a fairly high degree of confidence that we were in control. The problem was, there were some 2,000 aircraft up when this operation started, and it took several hours to get them all down. And as long as there were aircraft up and there was a report of a threat against Air Force One, and there were aircraft we couldn't account for, that might, in fact, have been taken by the terrorists, flying cover for Air Force One was very important.
MR. RUSSERT: Would we consider using fighter jets to protect Air Force One for the short...
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think if we believe it's necessary, we absolutely will.
MR. RUSSERT: In Europe, the government provides security at the airports, highly trained, well-paid specialists. Here in the United States, it's a low-paying job hired by the airlines. Would we consider having the government take over airline security, airport security?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We're clearly going to have to look at this whole question and find ways to improve and enhance our security, without a doubt. And it's going to be a prime focus for Norm Mineta and the folks over at the F.A.A. Exactly what the answer ought to be, Tim, I don't have enough information now to be able to judge that. But without question, this was a significant failure there in the sense that they were able to take four aircraft. But again, they didn't do it with guns or explosives; they did it with knives.
MR. RUSSERT: The airline industry is losing $300 million a day, several teetering on bankruptcy or at least Chapter 11. Would you support a federal bailout of both loans and grants and assistance to the airline industry?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: The president hasn't really taken a position on any particular piece of legislation. And I think we're very interested in finding ways to make certain that in this particular instance, there is no sort of permanent damage, if you will, to our civil aviation capacity. It's very important. We've got people--Norm Mineta's working on it. Larry Lindsey, who heads the economic council, is heavily engaged in it. We're working with the airlines, and I'm sure we'll come up with some...
MR. RUSSERT: So you're open to the concept?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: About a week ago, we were all discussing the so-called Social Security trust fund and who...
VICE PRES. CHENEY: And the lockbox.
MR. RUSSERT: ...and the lockbox...
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...and who spent the surplus. Is that debate now moot?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think so. I certainly hope so. I think, you know, we've all been concerned to make certain we protect Social Security. But we clearly have a situation here--and that debate was a little bit fallacious anyway, because, in fact, there was never any question but what the United States government was going to pay its obligations to our seniors. We've never defaulted on a debt since Alexander Hamilton was Treasury secretary, so that's never really been an issue.
But clearly, at this stage, we do have a surplus that's generated primarily by the payroll tax, and as has been true oftentimes in the past, that comes in, we were using it to retire debt. Clearly, some of it now is going to be used to meet this emergency, the urgent supplemental that the Congress passed this weekend of some $40 billion; take those steps we need to take, both to recover from this attack, as well as to do everything we can to prevent future ones.
MR. RUSSERT: The president said he would use the Social Security surplus in case of war and/or recession.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: Do we now have both war and recession?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Quite possibly. We clearly have a war against terrorism and we don't know yet what the third quarter is going to be like. But if the economists come in and revise the second quarter down into negative territory in terms of Gross Domestic Product growth and the third quarter, fourth quarter--third quarter of the calendar year, fourth quarter of the fiscal year...
MR. RUSSERT: And the economic shock from this.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yeah. If that comes in negative, then we'll have the definition of two negative quarters. That would qualify as a recession.
MR. RUSSERT: What about the debate over missile defense? Many Democrats are saying this now proves that our focus should be on terrorism and counterterrorism and preparedness, and that the primary threat is not something the missile defense could take care of.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I just fundamentally disagree. I mean, there's no question but what there's a threat on the terrorist front, and we've got to deal with that. We've been work it. We'll continue to work it. But there are also--this does not, in any way, diminish the threat with respect to ballistic missiles down the road. A ballistic missile equipped with a weapon of mass destruction, a nuke, for example, a nuclear weapon would be far more devastating than what we just went through. If one of those was to hit one of our cities or to hit a major base overseas where US forces are deployed, the casualty list would be higher. The consequences would be even greater than the terrible tragedy we've just been through.
MR. RUSSERT: So we can afford this war on terrorism and a missile defense system?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don't see, Tim, how anybody can argue that we cannot afford to defend America, and we're going to have to defend it against conventional threats. We're going to have to defend it against ballistic missile threats. We're going to have to defend it against the threat of terrorism. And I think for public officials to argue because we got hit with a terrorist assault, we should ignore the ballistic missile threat out there strikes me as irresponsible.
MR. RUSSERT: The stock market has been closed since Tuesday. It reopens tomorrow. Are you concerned?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think that our economy is strong. I do believe the market's going to open tomorrow. That's clearly the current plan and expectation. I would hope--I'm not an investor anymore, because I had to get out of the market since I'm now a public official. But I would hope the American people would, in effect, stick their thumb in the eye of the terrorists and say that they've got great confidence in the country, great confidence in our economy, and not let what's happened here in any way throw off their normal level of economic activity. We look forward to recovery later this year from the slowdown period that we've been through, and I have every confidence that that will, in fact, happen.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you ever consider undoing or holding off or triggering part of the tax cut in the future if the resources were necessary?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No, I think the tax cut's crucial. And that's exactly what we needed in terms of the slowdown. Having the tax cut out there now means we're going to have a more robust year than would have been the case without the tax cut. It's a key piece of stimulus. And I think the president did exactly the right thing.
MR. RUSSERT: There is such fervor, such emotion, such anger in the country right now. And as we conduct this war against terrorism, as you said, it's going to take, days, months, years. What do we ask of the American people? Will they have to sacrifice in order to help win this war?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I guess I would ask vigilance. Be aware of what's going on around you. Don't operate on the assumption that somehow because we live behind two oceans we're immune to attack. We now know we're not. I would ask, obviously, that they be understanding, if you will, of the importance of the effort that we're going to have to undertake here. We may end up, you know, with more stringent security measures at airports and things like that. But I think there's a unity and a spirit out there that I've not seen for a long time in this country. And I see it on Capitol Hill between Republicans and Democrats. I see it--the workers who were cleaning up the mess in New York where the president visited yesterday. I see it in the people I've talked with. And I think we have to recognize we are the strongest, most powerful nation on Earth. We've got a tremendous set of accomplishments and an enormously bright future ahead of us. There are those in the world who hate us and that will do everything they can to impose pain, and we can't let them win.
MR. RUSSERT: And we'll find them.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We'll find them.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Vice President, we thank you for inviting us up to the mountains here with you, and we'll be watching you very carefully.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Thanks, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Like all of you, I have spent this week wiping my eyes and grinding my teeth and wondering why. I've drawn strength from a story about a man I knew, Father Michael Judge. The chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, a Franciscan, he raced to the World Trade Center after the explosion to comfort the injured. While administering the last rites to a dying rescue worker, he, himself, was killed by flying debris.
New York's bravest physically carried Father Mike away. They brought his body first to the altar of St. Peter's Church, where it would be safe, then to their firehouse on 31st Street, Hook and Ladder Company Number 24, directly across from the friary where he lived. They wrapped him in sheets and placed him in one of their own bunks. They asked his fellow Franciscans to cross the street and join them. Together--firemen, priests, and brothers--wept and sang the prayer of St. Francis, "May the Lord bless and keep you and show his face to you and have mercy on you." That is the way of New York. That is the spirit of America. From February 1945 at Iwo Jima to September 2001 at the World Trade Center.