Text: Ashcroft on CNN's 'Late Edition'
Following is the transcript of CNN's "Late Edition," hosted by Wolf Blitzer. Guests: Attorney General John Ashcroft, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Charles Hagel (R-Neb.), Haron Amin of the Afghan United Front, Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Maleeha Lodhi, former congressman Lee Hamilton, and former CIA director Robert Gates.
BLITZER: It's noon in Washington and New York, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 8:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan, and 9 p.m. in Islamabad, Pakistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special three-hour Late Edition.
And this week, our third hour will belong to you. We'll be taking your phone calls from around the world for our military and terrorism experts as well as our CNN reporters. So start thinking of those questions right now.
We'll get to my interview with the U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft shortly. But first, let's go to CNN's White House correspondent Major Garrett. He's outside Camp David, Maryland, where the president is spending the weekend, monitoring the latest developments.
BLITZER: Let's now go to Islamabad, where CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, is monitoring developments. She interviewed the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, earlier today.
BLITZER: And she is also following the statements from Taliban representatives there, that they know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's what we got from the Taliban ambassador here in Islamabad, that they know the whereabouts and implicitly thereby connecting their fate to the fate of Osama bin Laden.
But just might add that there has been a welter of confusing and contradictory information coming out of various parts of the Taliban leadership. And it's just simply impossible to decipher, to be very, very frank.
On another issue, we did talk--I spoke to the president of Pakistan a few hours ago. And he, for the first time, confirmed from his own voice what had been asked of him; and seemed to imply that in a last resort, would he be directly asked that U.S. troops would be based here in the case of a military operation.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: We have said that we will cooperate in these three areas of logistic support and use of airspace. We need to get into the details of the modalities as they come along.
AMANPOUR: What is Pakistan--what is your bottom line? What are you not prepared to do in any military campaign?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I would not like Pakistani troops to be crossing the borders into Afghanistan, because I don't think that is a requirement from our troops also.
AMANPOUR: Has the U.S. presented with you an operational plan yet?
MUSHARRAF: No, not as yet. We don't know anything about the operation plan.
AMANPOUR: You know there have been reports of special forces from the U.S. and U.K. already taking part in reconnaissance in Afghanistan. And there has been reports that thousands or hundreds of U.S. troops have been based here already.
MUSHARRAF: Well, I see these in the news, yes. So my--there is no such information. I don't at all know those who are based in Afghanistan, but I'm certainly very clear that nobody is based in Pakistan as yet.
AMANPOUR: Are you personally convinced that Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network is, was responsible for what happened in the United States?
MUSHARRAF: Well, frankly, we haven't been--there is no evidence that has been shared with us as yet. So therefore, all that I know is from the television, so I don't have any details myself.
AMANPOUR: So General Musharraf tells us that he is expecting to be briefed. He also went on to say that hopes are, quote, "very dim" for the Taliban handing over Osama bin Laden. He said that his emissaries had not been able to moderate the views of the Taliban.
And then, in answer to a question about whether he thought now the march of history was making an end to the Taliban inevitable, he said that it appears so because of this gathering military coalition. And he said it does appear, in his words, "danger is coming to the Taliban leadership."
BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour.
And Christiane and Major Garrett will be back in our program during our third hour to be taking your phone calls for around the word.
And her complete interview with President Musharraf will air later today on CNN at 5:30 p.m. Eastern as well as 10:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight.
A short while ago I spoke with the man heading the United States investigation in to the September 11 terror attacks, the Attorney General John Ashcroft.
BLITZER: General Ashcroft, thanks for joining us. Let's begin with the news of the day, which is that the Taliban now says they know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. What's your reaction to that?
ASHCROFT: Well, first of all, the president has made it very clear those who harbor terrorists, those who sponsor them, those who give them aid are considered to be a part of the attack against the United States of America.
Very frankly, we are in a very serious situation. We believe there are substantial risks of terrorism still in the United States of America. And as we as a nation respond to what's happened to us, those risks may in fact go up, so that we still have a serious situation.
If they're harboring Osama bin Laden, that's the wrong thing to do. I believe the United States, as we respond, we'll respond effectively.
ASHCROFT: But I think our risks go up, and that's what's given me such a sense of urgency about the legislation, which we need to pass to give us the tools to curtail terrorism. We need to be able to intercept, interrupt, interdict, stop, delay, prevent additional terrorist acts in America.
BLITZER: Well, as the person who's in charge of this U.S. investigation--you're leading the investigation--if the Taliban says they know of his whereabouts, he's under their authority, are you demanding that he immediately be handed over to the United States?
ASHCROFT: Well, obviously, that's been a request, a demand for a long time. We have asked that they assist us in bringing to justice this individual who has orchestrated this al Qaeda network. You know, he's not the only responsibility or obligation we have in terms of our self-defense and our ability to respond. But certainly it's a responsibility on their part to deliver him and his lieutenants, and to help in the dismantling of this terrorist network.
BLITZER: So it's not just Osama bin Laden. You want all of his associates handed over directly to the United States?
ASHCROFT: You know, it's very clear that this is a network, the roots of which are in Afghanistan, no question about that in my mind. But we've seen its manifestations recently in Europe, as we have traced back from this act of war against the United States. We know of its manifestation in the United States most painfully.
We're very confident that Osama bin Laden-, al Qaeda-, terrorist-tied organizations are operating in dozens and dozens and dozens of countries around the world. Responsible nations are participating with us in an effort to curtail the additional threat.
Here at home, we have to do more than talk. Talk won't stop terrorism. We need tools to reduce the risk of terrorism.
BLITZER: And we'll get to that in a moment.
But I just want to nail down--the Taliban says, give us some evidence. They want some evidence from the U.S. implicating Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, and then they'll talk with you about handing him, presumably over to some third party or maybe even to the United States.
ASHCROFT: You know, Osama bin Laden is one of the--is the top person on the 10 most-wanted list of the FBI, not just for this event but for his previous involvement in the embassy bombings in Africa, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. And he's under indictment.
Here is a clear situation where his catalogue of activities against the United States is so substantial, and his...
BLITZER: Well, why not simply provide that catalogue directly to the Taliban, through some third party if necessary, so they might have the political cover to hand him over?
ASHCROFT: They obviously have an awareness of his indictment in the United States, of those individuals with whom he's been involved having been to trial in the United States or in the process of criminal justice activities.
This is not a situation where the Taliban sits in ignorance and says, we've got him but we think he's innocent. This is a time for them to say, yes, we'll deliver him to you, and yes, we'll deliver his network, and we'll make it available, and we'll expose it. Because this network of terrorism is a threat. It's a current threat to the United States as well as the rest of the world.
BLITZER: And if they don't comply?
ASHCROFT: Well, obviously, the United States is going to respond. And the president has made it very clear that he expects not only to go after the networks and the leaders of the networks, but those who harbor and aid and provide a base of operations.
Now, that is very clear that the roots of this assault against the United States and much of the terrorism that has plagued a good bit of the world, including our assets in Africa and the like, is in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: So, just to wrap it up, if the Taliban does not comply, they could face the wrath, the military wrath potentially, of the United States?
ASHCROFT: Well, I'm not going to talk about specific responses of the United States. As you well know, this is a comprehensive effort. The president has indicated that all the options are on the table. We're going to take action not only against those individuals and be responsive to those networks and individuals, but to those who harbor, aid and provide shelter for them.
BLITZER: Now, Gary Hart, who chaired a commission on terrorism a few years ago, writes in the new issue of Time magazine this--and it's appropriate given the fact that you just said there are still terrorist threats out there against the United States.
He says this: "America is not prepared, either offensively or defensively, for the conflicts of the 21st century. We are the strongest military power in the world, but for the wrong century. Conflict is now being carried out by civilians against civilians. Perpetrators belong to no state, wear no uniforms and obey no rules of war. No targets are off-limits, and no citizens are exempt from slaughter."
Is Gary Hart right?
ASHCROFT: Well, I think there is a great deal of truth in what he said. And the president of the United States, when he's talked about the response and our effort to wage war against these networks of terror, has indicated that it'll be a totally different kind of war. Don't expect, quote, "a CNN war." Don't expect just something that could be--always be seen. There will be--because those involved in the operations against the United States are not just networks. There are some states that harbor them, but there are also these networks and individuals that would be a different approach.
So it is a new approach. He says it's a new kind of endeavor. And very frankly, former Senator Hart indicates that he believes it's a new kind of an effort.
I think our president is keenly aware of it and will tailor the response of the United States, which is substantial. Financial response--it's going to be a response that includes a full array of the ways in which to rout out this network of terrorist activity.
BLITZER: By coming up with a series of proposals, legislative changes that you're asking Congress to pass, you're in effect acknowledging that the United States was not completely prepared to deal with this threat.
ASHCROFT: Well, we weren't as prepared as we would like to have been. I know that Senator Hatch, following the Oklahoma City bombing, in the response to that legislatively, tried to put some of the things in that bill that we are offering to the Congress, asking the Congress to give us as tools now. Had we had those, it might have made a difference, but we can't guarantee that.
I know that there are members of the Senate who look carefully at that. Senator Biden, for instance, has been strong for a number of provisions that we've sent forward. Senator Schumer, Senator Feinstein. I've talked long and hard with Senator Leahy. We've got to move some of these capacities. And they're very important.
BLITZER: Let's go through some of the specifically. There's a new CNN-Time magazine poll that asks whether U.S. citizens should carry federal ID cards. Look at these numbers, 57 percent say that's a good idea, they favor it; 41 percent oppose it.
Do you want a new federal ID card system to be in place in the United States?
ASHCROFT: First, we need to focus on the terrorists and on the foreign agents. The first thing we've asked for is the right to have airtight security on terrorists and foreign agents.
And we have the ability to wiretap organized crime and the ability to wiretap drug dealers in a way that's up-to-date, and we don't have that same ability when it comes to foreign intelligence surveillance. We need that from the Congress; we need it quickly.
I need the ability--when a person is being detained and their case is being heard before the authorities on being illegal in terms of their status here, people who are aliens, I need to be able to keep them in detention if they're suspected terrorists. We know that they're already charged with violating the laws regarding immigration and their status. But I need for suspected terrorists to stay in detention.
We've arrested and detained almost 500 people. And we do that for people who are out of status. They violated the law. We need the ability to keep them in jail, not have them bonded out.
BLITZER: All right, I want to get to that in a second. On the federal ID thing, you're open-minded. You've made no final decision on the use of this.
ASHCROFT: That's not part of our package. We have a package that says we need to be able to seize the assets of terrorist organizations. We need to be able to get to those who harbor terrorists with severe penalties. We need to be able to surveil terrorists and foreign agents with the kind of robust surveillance that's airtight, the kind that we already have against organized crime and that we already have drug dealers.
These things the Congress can and should act on. The vice president has called on them to act by October the 5th. That's a--that is not a--that's a must-do date. That's a time when we should act.
Talk won't stop terrorism. We can reduce the risk if we have additional tools to stop terrorism.
BLITZER: Of those 500 who have either been arrested or detained, are you--none of them has been charged with anything, any crime yet. Is that right?
ASHCROFT: Well, all of them--virtually all--well, let me just start and tell you what categories there are.
There are people who have violated their status in immigration. And they are suspected for some reason or another because of their clear links or associations with the terrorist network that perpetrated these acts on September the 11th.
There are those who are what are called material witnesses. They have been arrested and held because a judge has made a determination that they may have information that would be material to this case. And they are susceptible to being held to provide that information.
ASHCROFT: There are people who have violated state and local laws. And when they've been apprehended, they have also been detected as being on a list of individuals that have had associations with the terrorist network or with the specific group of terrorists.
These are the categories of individuals being held. Except for those on material-witness warrants, the rest of them have all been violators of one kind or another. And they have violated the law in another respect and, having been apprehended for those violations, we have noted their identity as consistent with those who had been associated.
And we seek to hold them as suspected terrorists. They are obviously being--their cases are being processed on the other grounds.
BLITZER: But are any of them close to being charged with a crime in connection with the September 11th--directly associated with the September 11th attacks against the United States?
ASHCROFT: This investigation is a productive investigation. We're copping to build leads. The leads not only go to individuals in the United States but obviously to Europe and all the way in to the Middle East and to Afghanistan. But we're not in a position to comment on any indictments or charges until they would actually be brought.
BLITZER: As far as detaining them, you're asking for authority to be able to detain them virtually indefinitely without necessarily filing charges, at least for some of them. Isn't there some concern that that may be going above and beyond the civil liberties that, of course, are part of the U.S. Constitution?
ASHCROFT: I'm glad you mentioned that because it's important that we correct that understanding.
We're asking for the ability to detain people while the charges which are pending against them are being resolved. So that, if an individual is charged with violating their standing on immigration laws, if an individual is charged with other criminal activity, we're asking that we be able to detain them while that resolution of those charges is being processed.
If those charges then are resolved in favor of the individual, they would be free to go.
But suspected terrorists we should be able to detain, pending the resolution of other criminal charges against them, or pending the resolution of immigration charges against those individuals.
BLITZER: You spoke this week about dangers of bioterrorism, biological terrorism or chemical terrorism, crop dusters that potentially could be used by terrorists, hazardous materials, truck licenses that are out there.
How worried should American citizens be right now of these bio or chemical terrorism threats to their security?
ASHCROFT: Well, frankly, we believe that these were threats that were worth looking into very seriously. Individuals--not only those involved in the hijackings, but related individuals--making inquiries about crop dusting, and being observant of literature on how to disperse things in an aerosol way. Knowing--linking up that information with an awareness that al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have announced their interest in these kinds of ways of mass destruction, I think we ought to be concerned about it.
And we took steps. We grounded crop-dusting aircraft for a couple of days. And we put in place a set of procedures, working with local authorities, to increase our capacity to detect an improper use of this aircraft and to reduce the risk of aircraft being used in ways that would endanger the lives of very significant numbers of American citizens.
BLITZER: So right now that threat, though, is still very much out there?
ASHCROFT: Well, there are threats of explosives, there are threats of--there are all kinds of threats. I think there is a clear, present danger to Americans; not one that should keep us from living our lives, but one that should make us alert.
We should be active and involved in our businesses and in our families, but we should be alert. I kind of like the idea of a national neighborhood watch, that we are careful in what we do and understand that it's very unlikely that all of those associated with the attacks of September 11 are now detained or have been detected.
And that's why we need the kind of robust surveillance capacity that's provided for in the legislation. It's time for Congress to act.
BLITZER: I want to get you to respond to what Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey said only yesterday on CNN in looking back on what happened. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR ROBERT TORRICELLI (D-NJ): We certainly have given our intelligence and law enforcement agencies the financial resources. I think we've given them much of the legal powers. Something went wrong. This isn't just money. It isn't just personnel. Structurally or procedurally or in strategy, something failed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's referring to the events leading up to the September 11 attacks. Clearly there was a major law enforcement or security failure, and a major intelligence failure on both fronts. They hijacked four planes, the U.S. intelligence community was surprised by this.
What is the single most important thing you think has to be corrected?
ASHCROFT: Well, first, we need to make sure we do everything we can to prevent additional acts of terrorism in this country.
ASHCROFT: The best way for us to do that is to have the Congress enact the package of reforms we've sent forward, to give us at least the same capacity to surveil foreign agents, terrorists and spies that we have for surveilling drug dealers and members of organized crime, to provide for us the capacity to interdict, disrupt, prevent, otherwise make difficult their activities. I think that's our number-one task.
And talk won't interrupt terrorism. We need to act in order to get it done, and we need to act promptly.
BLITZER: OK. Attorney General John Ashcroft, thanks for joining us.
ASHCROFT: Thank you.
BLITZER: And just ahead, what steps will Congress take to fight this new war? We'll ask New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel when this special Late Edition continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But make no mistake about it, we're in hot pursuit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush speaking of the U.S. effort to stamp out terrorism.
Welcome back to Late Edition.
Joining us now are two key members of the United States Senate: in his hometown of New York City, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer; and here in Washington, D.C., Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. He's a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senators, good to have both of you on the program.
And, Senator Hagel, let me begin with you with the news of the day, the Taliban saying they have Osama bin Laden under their authority. They say they want evidence from the U.S. government that he did something wrong. Well, you heard the attorney general say on this program that there's plenty of evidence out there, they don't need any more evidence.
What's wrong with at least giving them some evidence, maybe even as a cover, to allow them to hand over Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants to the United States?
HAGEL: Before we do anything, Wolf, it seems to me we must make very clear that this is not a negotiable issue. We are going to get him.
As to the request from the Talibans as to evidence, I don't see anything wrong with sharing some information with them.
Now, Attorney General Ashcroft laid a number of the points out here. This isn't just a new episode in Mr. bin Laden's career here. We've been after him for crimes against this country that he has perpetrated, and we have evidence for some time.
But we also must be careful not to compromise any intelligence in the process of handing over any evidence.
But generally, bottom line, I think it would probably be a good idea to share some of that. We're going to have to anyway with the world.
BLITZER: Well, Senator Schumer, what about that? There's a lot of people out there who are saying, in order to prevent a lot of collateral damage, innocent people getting killed, danger to U.S. troops going into Afghanistan, why not meet the Taliban leadership in Kabul halfway, give them the evidence and allow them, if you will, an opportunity to hand over Osama bin Laden?
SCHUMER: Well, I think, in this case, you can't be too careful; careful about not compromising intelligence sources, but also careful about the Taliban's intention.
We don't know if they speak with one voice. We've heard them say different things on different days. For all we know, we could hand them over conclusive evidence, and they say that's not evidence, we're not doing it.
I agree with Chuck Hagel. This is unconditional, this is not subject to negotiation. Just as we wouldn't have negotiated with Hitler or Tojo or anybody like that during World War II. This is not a legal matter, this was an act of war.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, the White House had circulated a memo, a copy of which we've obtained, suggesting that the end game may be a little bit differently, what they have in mind privately, than what they're saying publicly.
It says this: "The Taliban do no represent the Afghan people, who never elected or chose the Taliban faction. We do not want to choose who rules Afghanistan. But we will assist those who seek a peaceful, economically developing Afghanistan free of terrorism."
Is that coming very close to what President Bush said he wouldn't do during the campaign, engage in so-called nation-building?
HAGEL: I don't think so, Wolf. And the reason I say that is because this is an undefinable process. The objective is definable, and the president has laid that out, and all of his Cabinet has been rather clear about that. I think most of us in Congress have spoken to it.
But the process is going to float a bit. We are going to have to move a bit to carry this out.
This is going to require some reform of relationships. And I say "reform" because we're going to have to go back and review some of those, because self-interest of nations will dictate those new collaborations. And we're seeing that now with the Russians and the Chinese and others, in focusing on this fight against global terrorism.
So I don't see it as a change or a shift. It's a tactical process here that they are now engaged in that probably will shift a couple more times.
BLITZER: Senator Schumer, is it too early for the Bush administration and members, key members of the Senate, like yourself, to start thinking about a post-Taliban regime in Afghanistan?
SCHUMER: Well, I guess you can always be prepared.
But I agree again with Chuck Hagel. This is going to take so many twists and turns. This war that we face against terrorism is something that we have never fought before, not against a country but against individuals. Should they leave Afghanistan, should there be a different regime in Afghanistan, they would still be in 59 other countries.
And I think that our number-one goal has to be to make America safe from terrorism. There are going to be things that it takes to do that. If it does involve dealing with some of the rival factions of the Taliban, and trying to replace the Taliban, that's fine.
I'd say one other thing, Wolf. At this time we have shown amazing unity, and I, at this point, give the president and his people the benefit of the doubt. In other words, I think we can be second-guessing and third-guessing and fourth-guessing. We don't even know what the game plan is yet. We know that it's going to be a long fight. We know that we're going to make mistakes.
But I do think that in this brave new world, you have to give the president the benefit of the doubt.
SCHUMER: And to say, "Well, back three months ago, you said A and now you're saying B"--well, we're in a different world right now.
BLITZER: You know, Senator Hagel, there are some Americans who are feeling frustrated, saying that it's now almost three weeks. The president said he was going to act from day one, from September 11. Still we haven't seen any actual military action in this battle.
Are you concerned that the president might be coming under pressure to act prematurely before the United States has a specific plan in mind?
HAGEL: There's already that kind of pressure out there, as you suggest, Wolf. But this president, this Cabinet, this Congress, with the unity that Chuck Schumer spoke of--and it's real--will stay focused on the objective here. We are not going to be stampeded into hitting at some bogus target, some irrelevant action that could bring on, precipitate dangerous consequences. We won't do that. We'll withstand that pressure.
And there will be pressure. There will be second-guessing, and there will be questions, and there will be all kinds of wonderment about why we can't get this done in two to three to four weeks.
But we need to stay focused, stay disciplined, and we'll get it done. But it's important that we do it right, because actions have consequences.
BLITZER: Are among those...
SCHUMER: I would just say, Wolf...
BLITZER: Go ahead, Senator Schumer.
SCHUMER: ... just to add in here, that I actually think in a very interesting and good way, the president has increased confidence in his ability by being restraint--by exhibiting restraint, by showing that he is taking the whole big picture in. He is not just lashing out. He is not just looking for a quick hit that we can all sort of say we did something and then there's another terrorist incident a year or two from now.
I think the president is stronger and in control by resisting pressure to do an immediate, quick action that wouldn't do much to wipe out terrorism and make us feel good for a few days and then we're back to the same old problem.
So I think he's handled himself masterfully well. I give him an A up and down the board right now.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Hagel, you heard Senator Schumer give the president of the United States, a Republican--he's a Democrat--an A.
But let's move on and talk about the possibility that the mission may expand beyond Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda group in Afghanistan to perhaps other countries in the region, whether Sudan or Yemen, Iraq, Iran, some talk of Syria.
Are you among those who say, wherever terrorism is, the United States must go after those terrorists even if it means destroying this coalition that the administration is trying to put together?
HAGEL: The coalition is critical for the future war against terrorism, and that's what we are about here. Yes, we are about getting bin Laden, going after the al Qaeda network and all those associated with that network. No question, that is a focus.
But at the same time, this is a long-term effort. This is going to require an immense amount of commitment and discipline and leadership over a long period of time. That's going to require a very significant international coalition. No one is safe from this.
Look at what just happened in Colombia, for example. The wife of the Colombian attorney general being abducted and killed. That's terrorism.
And so, all of this that is surrounding us--this sea around us of terrorism and terrorist acts are maybe not part of the same conspiracy, but nonetheless, the civilized world is at war against that. So this coalition is going to be very, very critical.
And Chuck Schumer said it right. We have never experienced anything like this. This is unprecedented. So I think we must be very careful here how we construct this coalition and keep it as best we can. It will float, but we need that coalition.
BLITZER: All right. I'm going to ask Senator Schumer in a second to talk about that and also talk about Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq. But we have to take a quick commercial break. Keep your thoughts ready.
We still have much more to talk about with Senators Hagel and Schumer. Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're continuing our conversation with New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.
Senator Schumer, as you know, there are some in the Bush administration who say it's not too early to start thinking of going after Saddam Hussein and his regime as a sponsor of international terrorism. Although others, at least for the time being, are saying Afghanistan has got to be stage one, phase one; maybe Iraq at a later point, but not now. What do you say?
SCHUMER: Well, I think they have said two very wise things, the administration. One is that, while there are lots of states, or too many, five to 10, that help sponsor terrorism, we are going to look at their actions forward rather than backward. So if countries like Iran or Syria, Sudan, maybe even Iraq, stop aiding and abetting terrorism, not verbally but in their actions, then maybe they can have a clean slate. I doubt that will happen with Iraq. It's more likely to happen with some of these other countries. And that would be a big win for us.
The second, about Iraq itself, I believe that it probably makes sense--and again I would defer to the policymakers--to do this in stages. And while certainly Iraq is a very, very bad place that might be generating the kinds of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, even nuclear that terrorists could use with even greater damage than they did on September 11, I think that, since we are in such a brave new world and it's a whole new war, going one step at a time probably makes the most sense if--and I underline "if"--the policymakers determine that the greatest present threat is bin Laden, the Taliban and some of these other groups that are affiliated.
BLITZER: As you know, Senator Hagel, there's been some criticism already coming that the U.S. is supposedly paying off some of these countries to be participants in this U.S.-led coalition. A $50 million economic aid package now for Pakistan, removing sanctions. The U.S. standing on the sidelines while the United Nations lifted sanctions against Sudan only the other day.
How concerned are you, if you are at all, that the U.S. may be providing too many benefits to countries that the U.S. still considers supporters of terrorism?
HAGEL: First, Wolf, I think we have to recognize that there are no easy choices in this business of security, foreign relations. It's imperfect, it's imprecise.
The entire center of gravity is changing now in the world. Not unlike what history has shown us every 100 years or 50 years, these things happen. Our policies must adjust to this great new threat. What has just happened to this country three weeks ago was unprecedented. And so, our policies are going to have to adjust to that.
I don't see it as a paying off of a nation that would help us here in this overall threat. I see it as implementing policies that will deal with this both immediate and long-term threat for civilization. Western civilization is at risk here, and that is what we must focus on and adjust our policies to.
BLITZER: Senator Schumer...
SCHUMER: But one thing is clear...
BLITZER: I want to--go ahead.
SCHUMER: I was just going to say, Wolf, one thing is clear. If they continue to aid and abet terrorism, that's a lot different. And I think the administration and our policymakers--I believe they're keeping a strong eye on that.
If this induces them to change and makes our coalition stronger--as Chuck Hagel said, we are in a totally different world--great. But I do think it would hurt us greatly if we allowed some of these nations to be part of our umbrella coalition while they continue to aid and abet terrorism.
BLITZER: Senator Schumer, you're well-known as a strong supporter of Israel over your years in the Congress and the House, now in the Senate.
What is your reaction to the Bush administration's policy now of trying to encourage the Israelis--some would say pressure the Israelis--into making some concessions to the Palestinians at this point to resume peace negotiations, and to also, at the same time, tell the Israelis to stay on the sidelines so as not to disrupt this Muslim-Arab coalition that the United States is trying to put together?
SCHUMER: Well, as somebody who cares so much about Israel--and I remind supporters of Israel of this in New York and around the country all the time--nothing could help Israel more than wiping out world terrorism. That's what Israel's experienced. When somebody goes into a pizzeria or a nightclub strapped with a bomb that's filled with nails and ball bearings to kill innocent women and children and men, that is the exact same form of terrorism that we now saw on a massive scale here.
So, if Israel can bend a little to help the United States wipe out terrorism, it will help Israel in the long run.
I would say this: As long as the pressure--the pressure to get people to sit down and renegotiate, I don't have a problem with that as long as there is equal pressure on the Palestinians to give up the kind of terror and the kind of violence that they have used with horrible consequences. And I believe if the administration puts pressure on both sides, the Israelis to come to the table, the Palestinians to give up this terrorism, that could work out.
BLITZER: Senator Schumer, Senator Hagel, I want to thank both of you for joining us.
And this programming note, later tonight on a special edition of Wolf Blitzer Reports at 8 p.m. Eastern, I'll be interviewing the foreign minister of Israel, Shimon Peres.
But just ahead, we'll talk with a representative of the group that's currently fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. We'll ask him what role the Northern Alliance will play in the war on terrorism.
Late Edition will continue right after this.
BLITZER: A piece of New York City, almost three weeks after the September 11 attacks.
Welcome back to Late Edition.
Even as it faces the threat of U.S. military force, the Taliban is already at war in Afghanistan. It's fighting the so-called Northern Alliance, or United Front.
We're joined now by that group's representative here in Washington, Haron Amin.
Mr. Amin, welcome to Late Edition.
And let's get your reaction right away to the news the Taliban says it knows the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, he's in Afghanistan under their authority, they just want some evidence from the U.S. before they hand him over. What do you say about that?
AMIN: Well, we can say one thing: Look at the trend and behavior of the Taliban. The world shall not be deceived by their words. They have said so many things to the international community even from the very start about opening up girls' school, about not locking women in their houses, about cooperation with the international community to, you know, providing unimpeded humanitarian access to various parts of the country.
Every time they've made a promise, they have gone back on their word. So the international community should not be deceived.
And let me emphasize one thing, that this is only a delay tactic. I don't know exactly to what end, but I know this is a delay tactic. But the international community should not be deceived. They do not know.
BLITZER: Has there been any discernible change on the ground as far as the fighting is concerned between your forces in northern Afghanistan and the Taliban in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks? In other words, has there been any change? Have you made any progress?
AMIN: Well, we have been able to push the Taliban back a little bit in northern provinces, particularly in Mazar-e-Sharif. Fightings have raged over the last one week or so around Badris (ph) and Fariab (ph), as well as north of Kabul.
But though the front lines have changed, the change has not been very dramatic, in other words, militarily.
BLITZER: Have you received any assistance from the United States or other coalition partners?
AMIN: So far, no. But we know that the talks are in progress, and we hope that the international community is going to provide additional assistance.
But I think that what is happening right now is the talks are centering on exactly what needs to happen. I think one thing that the international community has realized is that hunt down of Osama bin Laden is not the only thing that needs to happen right now. There is a hub of terrorist networks that operate from the Taliban territories of Afghanistan.
And the fact of the matter is that there is a collusion, there is close cooperation between various non-state actors, as well as certain state actors, in Afghanistan, in the Taliban-held territories.
And the triangle that has been established there for many years is one of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and those affiliated with him, the Taliban mercenaries, as well as the military intelligence of Pakistan.
And it shall be--I mean, the international community needs to realize that fighting an Arab terrorist shall not be the only end. There should also be, if there are Pakistani terrorists, if there are other terrorists, that they have got to be looked at with equal eye. There needs to be this comprehensive approach to all of this.
BLITZER: Have the Russians and other of the former Soviet states in Central Asia increased the flow of weapons to your fighters?
AMIN: Let me be very frank and clear here. We have never received supplies from the Russians.
Yes, as the legal government of Afghanistan recognized by the international community, except one country, namely Pakistan, that we have the right to go at international markets and purchase arms. Yes, because of the fears that the Russians have in their southern--I mean, in the southern former--southern Soviet republics, that they have sold these ammunitions to us at a discounted price.
But we're still purchasing, and we hope that the international community is going to provide additional assistance to us.
BLITZER: There's been a lot of speculation that the exiled king of Afghanistan, who's been in Rome now since the late '70s, that he might be useful in forming some sort of new regime after the Taliban. Does your group sort bringing the exiled king back to Afghanistan?
AMIN: Yes, I mean this goes back to exactly--the West neglected Afghanistan after 1989. In the post-Soviet disintegration, it was completely out of focus.
The reason we had the September 11 attacks is because the West neglected Afghanistan, left it at the mercy of the Pakistani military intelligence. And then it became the hotbed of terrorism, on the one hand, the legacy of the--the ambition was to use militant Islam and separatists--I mean, to use extremist Islam version in Kashmir and also in Afghanistan.
Now that the international community has seen the evil side of terrorism, what needs to happen is there needs to be a replacement for the Taliban.
We hope that the international community, having recognized that the rollback of the Taliban is also necessary, as is the huntdown of Osama bin Laden and the networks, that there needs to be something in post-Taliban era.
And that is--currently our delegation is in Rome. We have met with the former monarch of Afghanistan. We hope that he can play the role of a unifying figurehead in Afghanistan--not as a monarch. This is not to implicate or imply the institution of--the return of the institution of monarchy, but to in fact have him come and head a transitional setup or some sort of setup to take us towards the convening of the Loya Jirgah or the traditional assembly.
BLITZER: Interestingly enough, only yesterday a group of U.S. congressmen met with the exiled king in Rome as well.
But, Haron Amin, we're out of time. I want to thank you so much for joining us.
AMIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And just ahead, the second hour of Late Edition. We'll check the hour's top stories.
And then, Pakistan has become a crucial ally in the U.S. war against terrorism. We'll talk with that country's ambassador to the United States. We'll also get some perspective on how the Bush administration is handling this new war. That and much more, when this special Late Edition continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to the second hour of Late Edition. We'll get to our interview with Pakistan's ambassador to the United States in just a moment. But first, let's go to CNN's Leon Harris. He's in Atlanta with a check of the latest developments in the war on terrorism.
BLITZER: Joining us now is Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Maleeha Lodhi.
Ambassador Lodhi, welcome back to Late Edition.
I want to get right to Christiane Amanpour's interview with the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. He says he would still like to have some evidence from the U.S. that Osama bin Laden was in fact responsible for the September 11 attacks.
Why does he need more evidence than is already out there in the public domain?
LODHI: I think what he was talking about is what other members of the international coalition are also talking about, which is to the extent that it's possible to share such information on the evidence, it would be useful because we have to also impact on the public mind in the world.
But it's also clear to us that we will comply with our international obligations under the U.N. Security Council resolutions. So I think the call for making some, whatever is possible, of the evidence public is because we have an international coalition and we need to continue to maintain the international coalition because we have a long way to go.
This is going to be a long campaign, as everybody in the world knows, including the senior members of the Bush administration who have been making this point--President Bush himself.
BLITZER: But you understand the concern of U.S. officials that making some of this information public could compromise the sources and methods, how the U.S. intelligence community operates?
LODHI: Absolutely. And I think that's why President Musharraf made the point that confidentiality has to be maintained. And to the extent that is possible, this evidence should be shared with the international community. And we are part of that international coalition.
BLITZER: And the evidence that already is out there from the trial, let's say from the East Africa bombings, implicating Osama bin Laden and his associates, that's not enough yet to satisfy President Musharraf?
LODHI: No, I don't think at any stage the president said that he was not satisfied. He made the point that Pakistan will comply with earlier U.N. Security Council resolutions which had called on the international community to comply with what they had said, which was to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. So there are previous Security Council resolutions on this score.
But we are talking about the events that followed the terrible tragedy on the 11th of September. So I think in the post-11-September period, there are many countries that are calling for this. But this has never been a pre-condition for our cooperation. We have made that very clear.
BLITZER: As you know, the news of the day is that the Taliban ambassador in Islamabad, your capital, now says that his government, his regime knows the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, that he's in Afghanistan. Only a week ago they said he was missing; they didn't know where he was.
What does that mean in terms of the developments that are going on right now, U.S.-Pakistani cooperation, since Pakistan remains right now the only country that still maintains formal diplomatic relations with the Taliban?
LODHI: Well, as you know--and President Musharraf made mention of that, that there have been two missions that we have sent to Afghanistan to try to urge upon the Taliban to accede to the demand of the international community.
Now, we believe that all possible means should be used to make the Taliban see reason, to make them understand what the world expects them to do. And we will continue to make those efforts to the extent that it is possible.
LODHI: But as President Musharraf also pointed out, that the chances of them responding to that appear increasingly dim.
BLITZER: So what does that mean, if the Taliban does not hand over Osama bin Laden pursuant to U.N. resolutions, the will of the international community, does that mean that a U.S.-led military strike with Pakistan's assistance is inevitable?
LODHI: Well, I think, you know, we can go into details here of what could possibly happen, in terms of the nature of the cooperation between Pakistan and the rest of the international community, including the United States.
But I think what is important right now is to have an approach that helps to prevent the further loss of innocent lives, and to also have a focus on the future of our region. In any post-crisis situation, obviously Pakistan, as part of that region, would like to see peace and stability in our region.
BLITZER: I want to give you a chance to respond to what the representative of the Northern Alliance, the so-called United Front, said, that the Taliban are really, in his words, a creation of Pakistani military intelligence.
LODHI: Well, Wolf, I think our focus should be on the future. Our focus should be on the fact that Afghanistan should have a government which is acceptable to the people of Afghanistan.
I don't think it is very useful--frankly, it's very distracting--when we take our focus off the future and get into history, because there is a very long history to Afghanistan and what happened in Afghanistan.
The important thing is that we have to all work together as a global community to ensure that we deal with the immediate and the urgent. And we also have our sights fixed on the longer term, because, as President Bush himself has said, this is going to be a long haul. This is going to be a long campaign.
And what we all must ensure is that peace and stability returns to a region which has been very volatile.
BLITZER: As you know, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, the only other states that had diplomatic relations with the Taliban, they've severed those relationships. Will Pakistan follow suit?
LODHI: We have pulled out all our diplomatic consular personnel from Afghanistan. There is only a very scaled-down representation of the Taliban in Islamabad.
We believe that this final, sort of last channel of communication that the world has with the Taliban, for the time being, is something that should at least enable them to hear what the international community is saying about them, and also enable my country to continue to see that we exhaust all diplomatic options before the world begins to turn to more extreme ways of dealing with the situation.
BLITZER: And how serious to Pakistan is this threat? We hear reports of a million Afghan refugees--they're already at more than a million, 2 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. How serious of a problem is this for Pakistan?
LODHI: Well, it's a huge problem, and it's not new to my country. My country has housed the largest refugee presence anywhere in the world for the last 20 years. Pakistan has been home to 2 million-plus Afghan refugees.
Now, as aid agencies are reporting, we are looking at a catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe on our border. What we are urging the international community to do--and we're very happy to see that the U.N. Secretary General himself has issued an appeal for humanitarian assistance.
We believe a part of the battle that has to be fought is for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. We obviously have a compassion for these people, as indeed the rest of the world also does. And we want to ensure that people in Afghanistan do not get caught up in famine conditions, because that obviously is going to place onerous burdens on my country.
BLITZER: Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, this is the third consecutive week you've been kind enough to spend some time with us on Late Edition. Thank you so much for joining us.
LODHI: Thank you.
BLITZER: And we'll have you back.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And up next, two views of the special challenges facing President Bush in waging a new war. The views from former Congressman Lee Hamilton and the former CIA director, Robert Gates. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special Late Edition.
We now get two views on special challenges facing the Bush administration, conducing an unconventional war. Joining us from Wichita, Kansas, is the former CIA director Robert Gates. He held that position during the administration of the first President Bush. And here in Washington, the former Indiana Democratic congressman and the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Lee Hamilton.
Good to have both of you on our program.
Congressman Hamilton, let me begin with you with this latest development about the Taliban saying they want evidence of Osama bin Laden's involvement in the September 11 attacks, and the Bush administration reacting, saying no negotiations with the Taliban: Either hand him over or accept the consequences.
HAMILTON: A president faces a tough problem there. He has the burden of persuasion, not just with the Taliban but the world. At the same time as he releases more information, he does reveal sources and methods which of course is very detrimental to our security.
I think probably some information could be made available to the Taliban, but we should not reveal sources of information. As the president has made clear, I don't think there's any reason to negotiate here.
BLITZER: Robert Gates, if the U.S. does provide some information to the Taliban, doesn't that appear to be opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban regime?
GATES: I think it would. I think that perhaps the Pakistanis could provide some information to them without the U.S. doing so.
Part of the problem here is that every time we've gone to court in recent years with bringing one or another of these terrorists to trial, we have had to reveal investigative and intelligence techniques. And every time, the terrorists themselves learn how we've come after them, and it makes it easier for them to evade us.
So I think all of these things have to be taken into account. But I frankly think that the administration is correct not to provide anything directly to the Taliban.
BLITZER: Is there a middle ground there, Lee Hamilton?
HAMILTON: Well, there may not--there may be, it just depends on what the nature of the evidence is. There's an awful lot of evidence now in the public domain, it's coming out every day.
BLITZER: So why not just make a white--remember a week ago, Secretary of State Powell said they administration would release a so-called white paper to the whole world.
HAMILTON: Of course it is immediately reversed by the president the next day because the president was sensitive to the sources and methods difficulty.
I think there's probably a way to do it. Bob suggested doing it through a third party. I think you could put together a lot of information already in the public domain, perhaps something else. But no need to get into negotiations with them.
BLITZER: Would you feel comfortable, Bob Gates, providing that kind of information, let's say, to Pakistan's intelligence service, the military intelligence or the other intelligence service of Pakistan, and not provide it to the American public? Would they be more trustworthy in this kind of sensitive information than the American public?
GATES: Well, frankly, I think that the Taliban are really just stalling. I think this is part of a political game on their part. They know perfectly well what Osama bin Laden's been involved in. So this is really, this is really a political and diplomatic game, not one of saying gee, if you guys could just persuade us of the facts, then we'll turn him over. That's nonsense, and that's not going the happen.
So I think that--I think the American people understand that we have to have sharing relationships with other intelligence services around the world, and that they give us information, we give them information, and none of that's made available to any of our publics because otherwise the secret efforts that we have under way to try and get at these guys would be compromised.
BLITZER: Lee Hamilton, in Christiane Amanpour's exclusive interview with President Musharraf of Pakistan, he said he would like some more evidence. And you heard the Pakistan ambassador, Maleeha Lodhi, say this would help attune public opinion within Pakistan to some of the developments out there. The Egyptian President Mubarak said the same thing basically earlier, that they would like evidence as well.
HAMILTON: I think you have to make individual judgments. If you're sharing information with Great Britain, it's one thing. If you're sharing information with the Taliban, it's a very different thing.
Pakistan is obviously cooperating with us in very important ways. Sharing of information may be called for there. But every case has to be weighed, I think, individually.
The moderate Arab countries are all coming to this town now and say, where's the evidence? I don't think you can lump them all together.
There is a quid pro quo here. To what extent are they cooperating with us? That will gauge to some extent the extent of our cooperation with them.
BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, we have to take a quick break.
More of our conversation with the former CIA director Robert Gates and the former House International Relations Committee chairman Lee Hamilton when Late Edition continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our discussion with the former CIA director, Robert Gates, and the former congressman and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Lee Hamilton.
Bob Gates, I want you to listen to this clip from a representative of the Taliban, who discussed why they are engaged in the kind of activity they're engaged in right now. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TALIBAN SPOKESMAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The Americans are fighting so they can live and enjoy the material things in this life. But we are fighting so we can die in the cause of God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How does the U.S. deal with a situation like that, where you have such firm believers in their cause and they think that God, of course, is on their side?
GATES: I think the administration's effort has been successful, certainly in a lot of places, in trying to point out that this is an extremist element of Islam that does not represent certainly the main stream of Islamic thought, either theologically or in terms of the views of people in the Middle East.
I think that we have to--at the same time that we are conducting our unconventional war to bring these people to justice, the people that were responsible for the disaster on September 11, I think our policies also need to have a positive component that illustrates that we do understand that there is a great deal of anti-Americanism out there on the Arab street among Arab populations and those in the Middle East and Gulf area. After all, we have seen that in the demonstrations in Pakistan.
So we have to have a positive side to our policy, diplomatic, political, economic, humanitarian and so on, where we are seen by moderate elements in the Middle East as playing a constructive role.
And frankly, I think this is one of the reason why some of the moderate leaders, such as Mubarak, are asking for information on--or the proof on Osama bin Laden. Because I think they know what the facts are, but I think they are looking for ways to try and moderate the views of some of the people in their own countries, to try and deal with some of the popular Anti-Americanism in their own countries, and balance their support for us with trying to help people understand at home what's going on.
BLITZER: All right. And as we show these pictures of President Bush returning to the White House from his weekend at Camp David, we see Marine One about to touch down on the South Lawn of the White House, I want to bring you back, Lee Hamilton.
There was an amazing letter that law enforcement found in the possession of Mohammed Atta, the ringleader, if you will, of these 19 hijackers; the mindset on the night before he and his colleagues went ahead, decided that they were going to kill themselves in their cause.
One line from the letter said this. It said, "Continue to pray throughout the night. Continue to recite the Koran. We are of God, and to God we return."
Picking up on what Bob Gates said, how do you deal with an enemy who is not only willing to die but, in fact, may be anxious to die for the cause?
HAMILTON: Well, you deal with it in part by getting the support of the Islamic world, the so-called moderate Arab nations. It wasn't any accident that the president of Indonesia, who presides over the largest Muslim population, was in Washington the other day. If we can swing those solidly behind us, then we will win the battle of ideas with much of Islam, for example.
There's a second part of this, however, that may be a little more controversial. I don't know that you can eradicate religious fanaticism by bombing. Indeed, I think you might fuel it. So you have to be very careful here on the way you use force. You do have to have the positive approach that Bob Gates mentioned a moment ago.
But the use of force and how we use it, how targeted it is or how broad it is, will be a very decisive factor with that critical element of the Islamic world.
BLITZER: Robert Gates, you used to head the CIA. Everyone seems to agree there was a huge intelligence blunder, a failure, not anticipating these attacks on September 11. Would it be useful for the future of the CIA itself for a formal commission of inquiry, if you will, to be conducted to see what went wrong?
GATES: I think that the people in the intelligence community and the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service and so on, should welcome a calm and thoughtful review of what was available before September 11, the information that was available, information that months ago in isolation may have been meaningless but today may be shown to be of importance.
I think one of the things that could come out of that was illustrating how the lack of resources, particularly to exploit information that we might already have, to translate it and get it in to the hands of people that can use it quickly, is important, both in terms of human intelligence and technical intelligence.
So I think people should welcome this kind of a thoughtful review. It should be done not in the way of finger pointing, but rather to find out what went wrong and what remedies are available to try and prevent it from happening again.
After all, there have been some enormous successes over the last several years by both the FBI and the CIA in thwarting some major terrorist plots against the United States. So I think this also has to be seen against that background.
BLITZER: And we're looking at live pictures of the president and first lady returning to the White House from Camp David where they spent the weekend. They're walking past the reporters and the camera crews.
BLITZER: And we're going to see if they're going to stop and answer a few questions. It doesn't look like they are, but you never know. Let's listen for a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Today's Barney's birthday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president now entering the residence at the White House from the South Lawn.
Lee Hamilton, as far as this intelligence failure is concerned, would you support a complete review of this process, even though heads could roll in the process?
HAMILTON: Oh, I don't think you can oppose a review. But most people know what happened here. We made a lot of mistakes.
The intelligence community focused too much on military troop movements, not enough on terrorists. The intelligence community put too much on technology, not enough on human spies. The intelligence community put too much emphasis on the collection of data, not enough on analysis. The intelligence community didn't share information.
The mistakes are pretty clear, it seems to me, and I think they can be corrected. If a commission helps to reinforce that, that's fine.
The key problem in intelligence is getting the right information to the right person at the right time. You can collect information by the warehouseful. If you don't get it to the right person at the right time, it doesn't do you any good. In a sense, you have a kind of a systems-management problem here. We've got to improve the sharing of information.
BLITZER: All right. Lee Hamilton and Robert Gates, kind of both of you to join us. I want to thank you very much.