FTN - 1/20/02

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BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face the Nation, Attorney General Ashcroft on the war against terrorism and security precautions at the Olympics. Plus, the Enron investigation.

The Justice Department last week released pictures of five suspected Al Qaeda terrorists. Have they received any tips as a result? And how secure is the Olympic venue? What's going to happen to John Walker? All of these are questions for Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Then we'll turn to the Enron case and talk to two of the men leading the congressional investigation: Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Republican Senator Fred Thompson.

Gloria Borger is here, and I'll have a final word on Martin Luther King, Jr.

But first, the attorney general on Face the Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face the Nation, with Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: Good morning again.

And joining us from the site of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, the attorney general, John Ashcroft.

Well, you're there, Mr. Attorney General, to check out the security arrangements. How's it going?

JOHN ASHCROFT, Attorney General: Well, I think things are going very well. We've got a number of groups, state, and local and federal authorities, working hard to secure the 900 square miles that'll be encompassed in these Olympic Games. And of course they'll be bringing people in from all over the world.

There are thousands of clearances that need to be made, visas that have to be issued, all in the context of understanding the need to secure the safety of the individuals that are involved. There'll be about 20 heads of state from foreign countries that'll be here.

And, you know, America is a land that literally is populated by people who have come from every corner of the globe in order to do better in an environment here that allows human potential to reach its highest level. The Olympics, in much the same way, are sort of like the story of America. People will be coming here to try and reach the highest level of their potential in an environment that will allow the most meritorious to succeed.

And we've got to make sure that this Olympics is safeguarded from any kinds of threats that would impair the security and safety, not only of Americans, but of those who would visit us as part of the Olympic spirit, the understanding of peace that comes with it.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I understand that the government may spend up to $250 million on this security effort. Have there been significant threats on the Olympics at this point, Mr. Attorney General?

ASHCROFT: Well, I am not prepared to comment on the threats. I am prepared to comment that there is a tremendous effort being made here to make sure that no threat can be credible and that no threat can succeed.

Virtually anytime you havvery substantial gatherings, whether they are the kinds of things that come in a World Series or what have you, someone will suggest that there are problems, and there could be. But the preparations that are being made here, the integrated effort, is much like the integrated effort that we're making overseas.

Last week we saw what happens when the armed forces cooperate with the intelligence community, and they turned over tapes that included the suicide tapes of Al Qaeda-type individuals. And working together in a seamless way, that's what provides a basis for real success in avoiding threats to security.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Mr. Attorney General, let's talk about those tapes. You did release videos of five of these suspected Al Qaeda terrorists. Have you received any useful tips that have led you closer to these men?

ASHCROFT: I really can't say that we have--that we're hot on the trail of anyone in particular at this moment.

These are important individuals. The one individual, obviously, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator, in terms of the 9-11, September 11 World Trade Center-Pentagon-Pennsylvania crashes. He is the subject of a warrant by the German authorities, and his activities were substantial.

We know that three times he tried to get into the United States and was denied a visa.

He was willing to become, in our judgment, a part of the suicide-bombing missions that were so tragic, in terms of their consequences for America. And a person with that kind of motivation and willingness to destroy others and to disrupt the safety and security and peace of others is a very dangerous individual. So we're very eager to have information on these individuals.

And, you know, we trust the public to participate in this effort, and so we've asked them to help us in this respect, as we have with others.

BORGER: Do you believe that any of these men could be in this country?

ASHCROFT: We don't know where they are. We think it's less likely that they would be here than that they would be in other settings--substantially less likely.

But we are asking people around the world to be alert to these individuals, to indicate to us if they know anything about them or their recently having been somewhere. Someone doesn't need to know that they are now currently at this moment in some setting. If they've seen them in the last several days, in the last week or month, we would need to know, to begin to pick up a trail on these individuals.

BORGER: Should we consider ourselves on a higher state of alert, as a result of the discovery of these videos?

ASHCROFT: Well, I think they remind us that there are still individuals who are very intent on doing the same kinds of things that were done on September the 11th.

They're very intent on repeating those or otherwise hurting Americans.

The Al Qaeda mantra, their belief is that killing Americans is a god thing and that destroying what this society, the values that America stands for. They are waging war against the values that we believe in: freedom and tolerance, religious freedom. And their idea is to destroy that.

And they're willing to destroy themselves in the process, and that's something that we're having to adjust to. Historically, we haven't thought of individuals willing to destroy themselves in the process of destroying us, but that's why we have to be especially vigilant. That's why we put out these videotapes.

And I'm hoping and I believe we will have help from people around the world and in the United States when information becomes available.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Attorney General, Richard Reid, the man with the exploding shoes who was arrested, there are reports from France today that he, in fact, had sent some e-mail to his companions or friends, suggesting that he would--was, in fact, going to try to blow up that aircraft and that he wanted to get credit for it, if he did.

Did you know anything about that, or can you enlighten us on that?

ASHCROFT: Well, I don't want to comment on evidence in specific cases. But can I tell you that that's very consistent with the kinds of things you saw in these--we find in these letters or last will and testaments that were associated with the 9-11 bombers, that have you on these videotapes of individuals who want to say to their families, "This is the intensity of my belief. This is the objective of my mission. I want to destroy America. I want to hurt Americans. I want to kill them. It's part of my idea of what I do with my life, and I'm willing to commit suicide in the process."

If you'd look at these sort of representations that are made about different individuals in a variety of settings that have been associated with Al Qaeda and these terrorists, this is a common thread that we see running through these cases.

SCHIEFFER: All right, let me ask you also about John Walker. The decision was made to try him in a civilian court. The decision was also made to charge him with terrorism and not with treason.

Why did you decide not to charge him with treason? Was it simply something that would be too difficult to prove? Is it because of information he gave to the government? What was the reason for filing the charge you filed?

ASHCROFT: Well, first of all, the Constitution itself provides very, very high standards for proving treason.

And basically, treason can be proved in one of two of ways: There can be two eyewitnesses to specific treasonous acts, the same acts of treason. And those two eyewitnesses have to be able to provide testimony. Absent that kind of eyewitness testimony, to specific treasonist acts, the individual would have to confess to treason in court. And even videotaped confessions outside the court would--well, we don't have any clear rulings on whether those would be acceptable.

We do have what we consider to e an appropriate case outlined in the indictment. And I believe that the charge of aiding terrorist organizations and all those other things, conspiring to kill Americans, serious charges containing life penalties, and we're moving forward on that basis.

SCHIEFFER: We know he has given the government some information. Do you think he still has any other information that he could give to the government that would be helpful?

ASHCROFT: Well, let me just say that, in all of the cases that we're processing, we continue to investigate even after we indict. And obviously, an indictment has been brought forward here. Charges are pending and the case is ready to be litigated in our courts, adjudicated.

But we continue our investigations. And any additional information, either from him about himself or from him about others, would be valuable to the United States, and we continue our investigations.

BORGER: Mr. Attorney General, though, this indictment, you said, was based on his own words, which were given to the FBI without an attorney present. How do you think that's going to stand up in court?

ASHCROFT: Well, first of all, I believe that it's very clear that he made a decision not to have an attorney. He's an adult. He has a right to make that decision.

His decision was made after he was told about his rights orally, and, again, he made a decision in writing after he was informed of his rights in writing. I believe that that's an evidentiary basis which will stand the test of any judicial scrutiny.

Now, we are not proceeding, solely based on his oral testimony, but obviously--his own words, but that's a substantial part of what we are basing our effort on.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Attorney General, let me change the subject just a little bit. You excused yourself -- recused yourself from the Enron investigation. And in the statement you released, you said because of the totality of your relationship with Enron.

Now, we know that they were a contributor to your campaign. Is there any other connection beyond that?

ASHCROFT: I'm going to -- I have recused myself. I believe that it's appropriate for me to do so. I will stay with my statement. And for me to comment further would be inappropriate.

SCHIEFFER: Well, wait. You're telling me there may have been some other connection with Enron, other than the political contributions you received from them?

ASHCROFT: I'm telling you that my statement is the basis for my recusal. And for me to be active or commenting on the case now is inappropriate.

SCHIEFFER: No, I'm not asking to you comment on the case, sir. I'm asking you to comment on, is there--do you have a relationship with the company, other than the fact that they gave you campaign contributions?

ASHCROFT: I don't have a relationship with the company, no.

BORGER: Mr. Attorney General, very quickly. You received $57,000 in campign contributions from Enron. Do you intend to give that money back to, say, groups that are helping the former employees who were laid off as a result of the failure of Enron?

ASHCROFT: I do not maintain a campaign committee. I left politics when I became the attorney general. The president of the United States asked me to be a part of the Justice Department, which is divorced from politics, and I don't have any intention of being involved in politics further.

I'm recused from the Enron case. I've made a statement about that, and I'll not be making further comments about it.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Mr. Attorney General, thank you so much for joining us.

We'll be back in a moment with two key members of the Senate committee looking into collapse of Enron, in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And with us now, Senator Carl Levin, who heads the subcommittee that is holding an investigation and hearings on Enron this week, and Senator Fred Thompson, the ranking Republican on the Governmental Affairs Committee, which is opening another set of hearings also this week.

Senator Levin, let me ask you, the attorney general just said that he had made his statement but he did not wish to elaborate on it. I think toward the end he said he did not have a relationship with Enron. But I'm not sure he understood what I was asking.

What do you think about his answer?

SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-Michigan: Well, I think you asked him whether he had any other contacts. And it just seemed to me, it would be a lot better off for him to just simply say yes or no and, if he did, what the contacts were, just simply to disclose them rather than to try to avoid that kind of disclosure.

I must say, I just think it's better for everybody to kind of lay out whatever connections, contacts, people had or have. And if it's in the past, just simply say it.

People understand that there's going to be contacts and connections with various groups and entities in this country. Just say it, get it over with, get it behind you.

But I didn't understand quite why he seemed to be reluctant to talk about what previous contacts he had had.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Thompson, let's talk about the White House and contacts or not contacts that they have had with Enron executives.

Should the energy task force headed up by the vice president go ahead and make public these contacts that it had with Enron? And should it make public all of the contacts it's had with energy companies as it drew up its energy policy?

SEN. FRED THOMPSON, R-Tennessee: Bob, as I understand it, the vice president's office is concerned about the precedent of having folks kind of go through the vice president's correspondence and his appointment calendars and things of that nature. I think they're on pretty solid ground from a legal standpoint.

Unfortunately, it's not just a legal question. It's a policy question and it's a olitical question. And I'm hopeful, as we go forward, that we can allow the vice president's office to maintain the proper protection of that office for the future while at the same time get the information out as time goes on.

The Congress set the GAO up to get certain information at certain times from agencies.

The vice president's office is not an agency in the normal context of things, so it's kind of caught up in the legalities of it now. But neither side should be over-lawyered in this context, and hopefully they'll be able to work it out.

SCHIEFFER: But what you're saying here is that you want to see them release more information than they've released up to this point.

THOMPSON: I think it's time--well, I think the--I want to know more about it, to start with. I think that the contacts with Enron basically have been released, as I understand it, because they said it was an ongoing investigation and appropriate for that reason.

Other than that, it's a matter of stand on principle, and that's valid. And the executive argument--the executive privilege arguments and discussions we have throughout the years, some of those are valid and some of them are not. We just have to look at the individual matters.

But from a political standpoint, I mean, Carl is right. It's better, let's get everything out and get it over with. I don't think there is anything there that they're concerned about, frankly, from folks that I have talked to. But those two considerations...

SCHIEFFER: But you think they might be hurt down the line if they don't be more forthcoming.

THOMPSON: Oh, they're going to be nibbling at their heels forever, you know, until they go further than they have. And so, from a political standpoint, I'm hopeful that they can do that.

But there are two valid considerations here that need some balance.

BORGER: Are you working with the White House to try and come up with some compromise on this?

THOMPSON: No.

BORGER: Senator Levin, will your subcommittee subpoena these documents if the White House isn't forthcoming, as Senator Thompson suggests?

LEVIN: The focus of my Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations are the activities of the board of directors and officers of Enron and the auditors, Arthur Andersen, the failures of those auditors, the deceptive practices of the managers of Enron. It is an inside focus on that company that is our focus.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Levin, what do you think at this point the--what ought to be the focus of this? Are there laws that need to be overhauled? Are there laws that need to be tightened?

I mean, if it turns out the White House had nothing to do with it or there is nothing--there is not a Washington connection with any of this--and we're far from coming to that conclusion at this point obviously--but what needs to be done to see that this doesn't happen again?

LEVIN: Well, first, e have to have a thorough investigation from many directions of the actions of Enron, the failures of Enron, the deceptive practices, the hoaxes that they pulled on their stockholders and on their employees, the failures of the auditors, the shredding of the documents by the auditors. There is a lot to be investigated specifically relative to those events to see what wrongdoing occurred.

But secondly, we've got to, I believe, at the end, significantly tighten our laws, give the Securities and Exchange Commission significant more powers.

Arthur Levitt, when he ran that commission, asked for those powers. He urged some conflict-of-interest issues to addressed. They were not addressed. Too many members of Congress resisted addressing those failures.

We've got to change our tax laws. Enron here used hundreds and hundreds of tax havens in order to shelter their so-called profits from taxes that ended up in four out of five years when they said to the world they were very profitable, were selling stock on that basis. In fact, they were pay no income taxes because of the use of those tax havens.

There is a lot of work to be done in the laws and in implementing existing laws.

BORGER: Senator Thompson, you have all of these simultaneous congressional investigations going on right now. Do you think that's going to hinder any criminal prosecutions in the cases, say, against Arthur Andersen or Enron executives?

THOMPSON: Well, it doesn't have to. I think we've learned a lot over the last few years about how congressional investigations can jeopardize prosecutions. And it's a balance that, once again, that we have to strike. People have a right to know what's going on in these public companies, and we have a right to ask.

But we need to try to do that in such a way that it doesn't jeopardize a prosecution, and make it so that a prosecutor can prove that he is proving his case absent the things that we disclosed in our hearings.

It's difficult to do, but we've--as I say, we've lost some prosecutions in times past and I think we've learned from that. So hopefully we'll be able to walk that line.

BORGER: Senator Levin, if I could just change the subject for a moment. You are on the Senate Intelligence Committee. There were reports over this weekend that on a plane we were selling to the Chinese that bugging devices were detected. If it's true, do you have proof of that?

LEVIN: I think it's foolish to embed permanent bugging devices in equipment that's being purchased by us, such as an airplane, any more than it makes sense for us to be embedding these kind of permanent devices in an embassy. We've run into trouble when we do that.

And it seems to me that it is not wise for us to do that unless they are an enemy. Now, that's different. Then you take certain risks you might otherwise take.

That doesn't mean there's not a role for our intelligence services, there are. But this kind of a pemanent device in an airplane, I think, is a foolish thing.

SCHIEFFER: But do you, in fact, have you any reason to believe that this is true, Senator Thompson?

THOMPSON: The story about the embedding of...

SCHIEFFER: Yes.

THOMPSON: No, not really. I don't know what the facts are.

I think that a situation like this, you know, reminds us that we have to have a cost-benefit analysis on all of these things. We've got to do some kind of aggressive things.

And frankly, our intelligence community, I think, is not suffering from being overly aggressive in the last several years; just the contrary.

So you've got to do some things. They look bad when they don't work. I don't know what the reasons were behind this, if in fact they did it. But I can assure you we will--we both serve on the Intelligence Committee.

But until then, I'd rather wait and make sure that it happened and learn the reasons why they did something that, if the story is correct, obviously backfired.

BORGER: Senator Levin, I suppose we should ask you, too. Do you have any independent confirmation of this?

LEVIN: No, and I don't know whether it occurred or not.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, gentlemen, thank you very much. I'm sorry, we have to end it there.

Back with a final word in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: Finally today, Monday is the day we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, and it got me thinking of just how much this country has changed because of him.

When I graduated from college, no black person had ever gone to any school that I had attended.

And I still remember the first black person I shook hands with. I was grown and I was in the Air Force. It wasn't because I tried to avoid it, but the opportunity had never arisen. We lived on one side of town. The black people lived on the other.

Yet, in less than my lifetime--a lot less, I hope--we have gone from a country that officially sanctioned segregation to one in which it is universally condemned. The courts changed the law, but it was Martin Luther King Jr. who made us face up to the law and told us why we should obey it. And when he did, attitudes began to change.

Back in 1960, John Kennedy had to make a long speech to assure voters he could be trusted even though he was a Catholic. Think of the selling job he would have had confronted had he been black back then.

Yet, what struck me, when Colin Powell was thinking of running for president several years ago was that race was the one question that never really came up.

And today, George Bush's ethnicity--read that, Texan--draws more comment than that of his secretary of state, which is hardly ever noticed. That is a big deal, and much of the credit goes to King.

In leading black people to their rightful place, he led all of us to a better world.

Tomorrow is a day off for most of us. Use part of it to tell te kids what Martin Luther King Jr. did, not just for African-Americans, but for all of us.

That's it for us. We'll see you right here next week on Face the Nation.



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