THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
DATE: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2001
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: The Bomb. It's back.
DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: (From videotape.) We know of certain knowledge that al Qaeda has, over the years, had an appetite for acquiring weapons of mass destruction of various types, including nuclear materials.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is the latest of many warnings on nuclear terrorism uttered by the U.S. secretary of Defense over the past two months since September the 11th. On Tuesday, President Bush himself spoke to the nuclear danger.
PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) They're seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Given the means, our enemies would be a threat to every nation, and eventually to civilization itself.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Former Assistant Secretary of Defense and respected nuclear authority and author, now at Harvard, Graham Allison writes about the nuclear danger in a 2500-word lead article, "Could Worse Be Yet To Come?" in the current Economist magazine. Allison says that while we may not be certain that bin Laden actually has the bomb, we should act as though he does, and without delay.
As to whether he has it, there's unconfirmed raw intelligence circulating in London that he does -- suitcase bombs, procured by Chechens in al Qaeda, in exchange for bin Laden's hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Afghanistan's raw heroin. The suitcase bomb was first discussed formally in the U.S. Senate in October '97, four years ago, when a Soviet scientist testified before the committee about why the bomb was developed.
ALEXEI YABLOKOV (FMR. SCIENCE ADVISER TO RUSSIAN PRES. YELTSIN: (From videotape.) He made it in beginning of '70s by order (of) KGB; not military mind, but KGB order.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: General Alexander Lebed, former Soviet Security Council member and rival of Vladimir Putin, noted at the time that of the 100 special KGB suitcase nuclear bombs, some 40 were missing. Quote: "There's a possibility that a moron with such a device could show up on the roof of a building and start extorting cash. Arguments that such devices don't exist are nothing but nonsense," unquote. Dozens of officials have echoed Lebed's assertion, including the Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, who said this four years ago.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): The prevailing view that there is today no direct threat to United States national security is dead wrong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: As for Osama bin Laden, he says that he's had the bomb for three years. Here's a quote from 1998: "At a time when Israel stores hundreds of nuclear warheads and bombs, and the Western crusaders control a large percentage of these weapons, this should not be considered an accusation but a right. It's the duty of Muslims to own weapons, and America knows that today Muslims have acquired such a weapon."
Question: Why did Bush go public with the warning about bin Laden's nuclear intent at this time? Rich Lowry.
MR. LOWRY: Well, John, there was clearly a PR element to this. The French public still isn't convinced apparently that Osama bin Laden is evil. So this is a way for Bush to play up the propaganda war. But it's also extremely important on the merits.
And this country is going to have to undertake a Manhattan Project in reverse, in effect, to locate and secure nuclear weapons and material in Russia and Pakistan, and also to go after an extremely important potential source of these kind of materials, and that's Iraq. We'll have to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I agree there was a PR element. I think reminding everybody what the end game here is and what the danger is helps keep the coalition together. But this is a very real threat. And we should remember that 99 percent of the chemical, biological and nuclear stores are in this country and in Russia.
And there is something we can do about it with regard to Russia, and that is, buy up the materials they have. And there is a program that has begun to do that, and inexplicably the Bush administration has cut back funding for it. It is time, I agree, for a Manhattan-style focus on getting these materials so they don't fall into the hands of terrorists.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did Bush do this to shore up the European wobblies?
MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't think so. Look, there's speculation that the reason why Vice President Cheney is always kept at least five miles away from President Bush is precisely because of the fear of the detonation of one of these satchel bombs, which has a range of about two miles.
So I think this is not particularly public relations. The people who are most expert are most nervous about it, although nobody knows for sure, but there have been so many credible accounts of the movement of some devices, as you reported, from the Chechens to the Afghanis.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Chairman Christopher Shays says it can be up to about three miles, and there are some reports it's four miles square, the devastation wrought by a suitcase bomb. Of course, no one knows.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's why they keep them five miles away.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right. Welcome.
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, Bush's argument also helps with the long-term case, the very long-term case, for keeping the war on terrorism going. We might achieve some intermediate objectives that do not convincingly eliminate the possibility of nuclear attack from terrorism. And so holding it out there as a possibility allows you to keep going.
Now, Osama bin Laden, when he was referring to the Muslim bomb, he's referring to the Pakistani capacity. There's no capacity in al Qaeda to do anything nuclear. But the Islamic bomb, in a sense, exists in Pakistan. The Pakistan regime has the capacity. And that's the biggest danger in this whole situation --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you don't --
MR. O'DONNELL: -- is that that regime topples; it gets into the wrong hands.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So in '98, that reference that I gave was really in reference to Pakistan. You're not --
MR. O'DONNELL: I believe he is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're not then persuaded by the story in London that the Chechens were given by bin Laden about half a billion dollars worth of heroin from Afghanistan, and they produced for him --
MR. O'DONNELL: No, there's way too much James Bond-style rumor around this sort of thing.
MR. BLANKLEY: But wait a second --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm-hmm. Well, you ought to know about all that stuff, huh?
MR. BLANKLEY: The Ukrainian arms merchant, Simeon Mulovich (ph), I think his name is, who is the rumored go-between between the Chechens and bin Laden, so it's not simply James Bond. This is a real man. Now, whether he completed the transaction or not for some Uranium-235, who knows? But that's certainly speculation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's a little bit --
MS. CLIFT: There are many --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Excuse me, Eleanor. Here's a little bit more evidence.
Osama bin Laden has tried to buy uranium at least three times: Paris, July 2001, bin Laden associates caught with five grams of weapons-grade uranium; Khartoum, 1998, al Qaeda member tries to buy uranium stolen from South Africa; Kazakhstan, 1994, Ramzi Yousef, top al Qaeda lieutenant, tries to buy uranium.
That was actually a reference to 1993. The World Trade Center bombing was originated with the idea that they would be able to procure one pound of Uranium-235. They were unable to do it, so they put in, what, sodium cyanide. But that didn't work either because it vaporized when the truck exploded.
MS. CLIFT: Well, there have been many documented examples of them trying to get these weapons. And I think, given what they've already done, if they have them, they'll use them. But I think we need to methodically try to buy up these materials so they don't get it. It's not many places, not many countries have these materials.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's true, but --
MS. CLIFT: But even just talking about it is going to send everybody in this country into bomb shelters and buying tuna fish and bottled water like we did in the '50s.
MS. CLIFT: There is a real danger of fear taking over here yet again.
MR. LOWRY: Ultimately, I don't think this is a supply problem. There's a lot of supply. There's a lot of this stuff. We need to take care of the demand, ultimately. That's how you end this problem. You take care of the demand by destroying the people who actually want to get the stuff and use it. So winning the war --
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- the supply, we know where it is.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me point out, however, to make sure we're covering all the bases here, the estimable Barbara Walters this week asked Russian President Putin whether Russia has the suitcase bombs. Mr. Putin replied, quote, "These are just legends. One can probably assume that somebody tried to sell some nuclear secrets, but there is no written, documentary confirmation of these developments."
MR. BLANKLEY: Sounds like -- (inaudible) -- to me.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that -- (inaudible) -- to you?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that a little squishy, or is it a firm denial?
MR. O'DONNELL: Well, it's as strong a denial as a government official can give, and he's doing it in stiffer language than we're accustomed to. But he's trying to make a strong point here that this is not something we should be worrying about, and he's probably right.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, and if there is a positive thing to come out of this, it's that President Bush and Mr. Putin will try to again go after the supply, which is in Russia, go after the loose nukes, go after the disgruntled scientists who might want to sell these things. We can accomplish something with good old-fashioned money.
MR. BLANKLEY: We've got to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I have a question for you. Just a moment; your opportunity to shine. Why hasn't he used the bomb? If he's got it, he would have used it.
MR. BLANKLEY: That's a great question. There's a theory floating around that he wants to do it at the maximum moment to maximize his objective. So perhaps after Ramadan and you get demonstrations in the streets and then the bomb goes off, and he sweeps away Saudi Arabia and Pakistan because --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's another theory.
MS. CLIFT: What's the time frame we should be afraid of?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There's another theory --
MR. BLANKLEY: Pretty soon.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- a more pedestrian theory. What is that?
MR. O'DONNELL: I don't think he has it. I think the chances are very low that he has it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you're getting ahead of the exit question here. The other theory is that when these bombs are stolen, they're stolen -- if they're stolen -- they all have a code, and the code has to be released. And that can only be released in this instance from Moscow. And that's also true with our suitcase bombs. We had them. No one's saying whether we have them now.
Exit: On a probability scale of zero to 10, zero meaning zero probability, 10 meaning metaphysical certitude, rank the probability that Osama bin Laden will go nuclear. That includes two presumptions: One, that he has the bomb, and two, that he will use the bomb. Zero to 10.
MR. LOWRY: I think it's a two. It's very likely that we'll kill him before he gets his hands on anything.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But you give it a two, not a one.
MR. LOWRY: You can't totally rule it out. And a two is still a big threat, and we have to take the precautions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what I'm saying.
MR. LOWRY: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm surprised you climbed from a one to a two.
MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: I think it's a real threat. I don't walk around worrying that it's going to happen tomorrow, but I think this is the path we're on if we don't interrupt it. I'll go along with Rich. I'll say two also.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: I think there's about a 10 or 20 percent chance he has it, a 100 percent chance he'd want to use it, and about a 70 percent chance that he'd do it effectively. So I'd give it about a three and a half.
MR. LOWRY: That's some serious math. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Did you understand that algebra?
MR. O'DONNELL: Most of it. I think there's zero chance of Osama bin Laden using anything nuclear. I think there's maybe a one chance in the next 10 years of something nuclear happening in terrorism, but not from him, because he will probably be gone by that time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I feel so much better now.
MR. O'DONNELL: I'm here to calm you.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Actually, you're largely right. It's a one.
When we come back, torture can force the disclosure of information which can save thousands, even tens of thousands of lives. So is it ever okay?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: The truth hurts. The Pentagon may soon lose its three biggest intelligence agencies, with the CIA taking them over, if the president signs off on the Scowcroft Commission's just-submitted massive overhaul of U.S. intelligence.
Transferred to the CIA would be satellite systems, imagery and mapping systems, and electronic intercepts -- an enormous intelligence portfolio. This CIA consolidation is to enhance sorely-needed efficiency through centralization and reduction of rivalries among 12 separate agencies.
And, on the other side of the Potomac, John Ashcroft has begun a big, quote/unquote, "wartime reorganization" of the Justice Department, including the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the INS.
Sooner or later, observers agree, the government will revisit one other effective and age-old method of intelligence-gathering. It would not be a new idea. In the 1960s, Yuri Nosenko, a Soviet KGB defector, was held by U.S. intelligence for more than three years under excruciating conditions. The CIA tortured Nosenko to extract what he knew about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and for other reasons.
One problem with torture today is that it is against international law that came into being in the 1990s. In the law, torture is defined as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession."
Many nations have signed the covenants but continue to torture. Why? To make evildoers yield intelligence and thus prevent further atrocities. Over the years, the CIA has taught other countries how to torture effectively and has published an interrogation manual of coercive methods, both physical and mental, including drugs and hypnosis. Journalists and the chattering class are currently exploring the pros and cons of torture, which, if done, could entail the saving of tens or hundreds of thousands of lives.
Question: Imagine that your child were being held captive and the only means to save her life were to torture a suspect. Would you condone it? Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, yeah, I mean, I'd probably do it, but that's why you shouldn't ask an individual. It should be a policy of government rather than an instinct of a parent for protection. Even so, governments have responsibilities. Israel passed a law recently permitting moderate coercion under the ticking-bomb theory that if they think they could save a live or lives that are in imminent danger, they can use moderate force.
There's serious talk about either shipping our people to Morocco, France or Israel, where they can use that kind of coercion. Given the dangers that are involved, the possible nuclear dangers that we're talking about, regretfully, we have to return to these medieval calculations.
MS. CLIFT: Well, no less a liberal light than Alan Dershowitz has suggested you might want to have torture warrants, get a warrant from the court in order to engage in some psychological torture. I don't really support this, but I think in our legally-oriented society, the attorney general has done the next-best thing by moving now aggressively to eavesdrop on prisoner- or detainee-lawyer conversations. And over a thousand people have been detained in this investigation, and most of them are not even permitted to have lawyers. And those that do, apparently the government will now listen to it. That's a pretty strong step.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. Exit question: The U.S. has in custody the male suspected of being the 20th hijacker for September 11th, a French citizen, Moroccan ethnicity. He is in jail. He was trying to learn to steer a jet -- steer a jet -- but he did not want to be taught landing or takeoff. A suspicious flight school alerted the FBI. Should the FBI torture the suspect? Yes or no, Rich Lowry.
MR. LOWRY: No, I think at this point, if it comes to that, we should let someone else do it. We should send him to another country that will do the job.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you really think that's the way to do it?
MR. LOWRY: Absolutely, unless there's some evidence --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that kind of --
MR. LOWRY: -- that he really knows about some imminent attack. And I don't think there's any evidence of that at this point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that kind of underhanded?
MR. LOWRY: Sure. Look, this is going to be a messy war and you have to do some underhanded things.
MS. CLIFT: Right. Name me the country that you would trust to do the torture in this particular case.
MR. LOWRY: The Turks.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Filipinos.
MR. LOWRY: (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Filipinos have already done it.
MS. CLIFT: It's a silly idea.
MR. BLANKLEY: If we were to make the decision that it needed to be done, then we oughtn't to slough it off on anybody else and we ought to do it ourselves.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you do it in this instance?
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't know.
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's your inclination?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.
MR. O'DONNELL: Your question was, should the FBI do it? There should be no one in the FBI who knows how to do it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No know who knows how to do it?
MR. O'DONNELL: No one in the FBI should even have the slightest idea how to torture anyone.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How about --
MR. O'DONNELL: Now, if there is someone in another branch of our government who works in dark operations in intelligence and they want to close the door and let that kind of person try to find out some things from this guy, maybe that's a half an hour we can live with.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think I concur with you, Lawrence.
Issue three: Mayor Bloomberg. The first chance Americans had to speak out politically following the September 11th terrorist attacks was last Tuesday, Election Day in many localities. Foremost on voters' minds: Terrorism and the economy. Campaigns may have targeted the usual list of issues -- taxes, schools, trash collection -- but the subtext was the same everywhere: "How safe are we?" "Can I get a job?"
Nowhere were terrorism and the economy more critical to voters than in New York City. There, Republican Mike Bloomberg defeated Democrat Mark Green, 50 to 47 percent.
NEW YORK MAYOR-ELECT MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R): (From videotape.) This was a very tough, close race. But the good news is we have won.
MARK GREEN (NEW YORK DEMOCRATIC MAYORAL CANDIDATE): (From videotape.) When a campaign adviser last month told me that no candidate in America had ever won an election being outspent by $45 million, I thought we beat the odds.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Bloomberg ran as a Republican in a city where registered Democrats dominate the GOP six to one. Correct?
MR. O'DONNELL: Correct.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How did Bloomberg do it? Lawrence.
MR. O'DONNELL: First of all, Kevin Sheeky (sp) -- a fantastic staff. He set up a great campaign staff, going at it very professionally right from the start. And then he brought the tremendous amount of money, which was, for some strange reason, an underestimated force by New York political pundits. They never took this campaign as seriously as they should have. He made almost no mistakes, and probably no mistakes since September 11th, which is when the real campaign, both quiet and active, was really going on.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MR. O'DONNELL: Mark Green made some serious mistakes in September.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What were those serious mistakes that Mark Green made?
MR. LOWRY: Well, it was really an implosion of the Democratic Party. This was a perfect storm for Mike Bloomberg -- the money, the surge of popularity for Giuliani, and the Democratic Party implosion. And the deeper lesson here is the Democratic Party for years has played footsie with the poisonous and paranoid and dishonest racial politics, and it came back to bite them in New York.
MS. CLIFT: Look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the attack that Green made against Bloomberg about a statement in a deposition where he appeared to be at first prima facie insensitive to race?
MR. LOWRY: That was a desperation move at the end. That didn't play at all. What hurt was the Sharpton wing of the Democratic Party alleging that Mark Green was racist for running a completely up-board, clean but tough campaign.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That hurt Green. That hurt him a lot.
MR. LOWRY: Absolutely.
MS. CLIFT: Events make the man, and September 11th made Rudy Giuliani, who then endorsed Mike Bloomberg, who was a liberal Democrat until less than a year ago, and he's got the business savvy that New Yorkers believe that he can buy them back into prosperity. And I hope he can.
MR. BLANKLEY: The lesson that Democratic operatives learned from this election was that Mark Green made the terrible mistake of trying to win it with white liberal votes instead of paying his obeisance to the black vote. And as a result, they had the lower black vote for him. And next time out they're going to have to play footsie with Al Sharpton.
MS. CLIFT: Bloomberg won it with a Democratic consultant and a Democratic message.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no answer: Will Michael Bloomberg be able to fill Giuliani's shoes? Yes or no.
MR. LOWRY: No, absolutely not. And he'll have a falling-out with Giuliani by February.
MS. CLIFT: Well, the pre-September 11th Rudy Giuliani's shoes, he can easily fill. The post ones, I don't know. (Laughs.)
MR. BLANKLEY: He's a very able executive. I don't know that he can quite catch the flavor of Giuliani. I would suspect he might do a decent job.
MR. O'DONNELL: I think Bloomberg will be at least as good a mayor as Rudy Giuliani.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes.
MR. LOWRY: What has to be remembered is we're talking about an eight-year mayoralty, which made a lot of mistakes. People think it's a 90-day mayoralty.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think he will be able to fill the shoes of Giuliani, but in a different way, and that's the financial way. New York is headed into bankruptcy, and Mike is exactly what New York needs.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. LOWRY: Bush may be a warrior overseas, but he'll get rolled at home. He'll have to sign stimulus and airport security bills he doesn't like.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, Democrats are getting ready to sharpen the rhetoric on both those issues, and the White House will have to cave.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And he hasn't done enough on them anyway. Yes.
MR. BLANKLEY: During Ramadan, demonstrations in Saudi Arabia will shake the house of Saud.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lawrence.
MR. O'DONNELL: The only health care legislation that can pass this year is the COBRA expansion in the Senate stimulus package.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that there will be no health care legislation pass this year.
Next week, Russia's President Putin comes to Washington for a George-Vladimir lovefest. Bye bye.
(End of regular program.)
(Begin PBS segment.)
Show me the money.
After the atrocities of Sept. 11, Americans opened their hearts and their wallets, donating more than $1 billion, the most massive giving in the history of charity. New York’s attorney general last week joined the chorus of those looking into the disbursal of those dollars. Among the biggies: a telethon brought in $150 million; a Madison Square Garden concert, $30 million.
The American Red Cross – establishing a special 9/11 fund – collected $564 million. But its distribution has, in large part, been stalled and detoured, as admitted by the Red Cross organization itself this week.
At a Congressional hearing, the resigning president of the American Red Cross, Dr. Bernadine Healy, took a lot of criticism but defended her agency’s processes.
John McLaughlin asks: Did Bernadine Healy make a mistake by not seeing the depth of feeling Americans have about immediate assistance to the families of the September 11th victims?
MS. CLIFT: I think people feel that there was not truth in advertising here; that her very effective television appeal suggested that the money would go only to the direct victims of the terror attack. Traditionally, charities use money for a variety of things. But it is very disconcerting in this particular horrific event to think that you're giving money and it's going to go buy new computers or something like that for the Red Cross.