FTN – 2/16/03

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BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: On a very snowy day here in Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge joins us here in the studio. Joining in the questioning this morning is Dana Priest of The Washington Post.

We've asked her here because Dana has just written a fascinating new book about the American military called "The Mission."

I thought I knew something about the military, having covered the Pentagon for five years, but I really learned from your book, Dana. Congratulations.

DANA PRIEST, The Washington Post: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, let's get right with it here. Last week you raised the threat level to orange. I would ask you this morning, has the danger that caused you to increase the threat level, has that diminished in any way?

TOM RIDGE, Homeland Security Secretary: There is nothing we've seen in the intelligence we have analyzed over the past week that has led us to concluded that we should either take it up or reduce it, so we've maintained the same level of warning, the same level of threat.

SCHIEFFER: Well, there have been reports that perhaps what you were expecting, when you were expecting the worst was on February 13th. That's come and gone. Was something expected on the 13th?

RIDGE: Yes, part of the information that we received that led to the conclusion to raise the national level was associated with the sacred period in Islam with regard to the pilgrimage to Mecca, the religious observance, the hajj.

That has since come and gone, but that was just one piece of the information from what we consider to be credible sources that we were able to corroborate that caused us to raise the level.

SCHIEFFER: Will you give us some specifics on exactly what it was you expected? Was it the so-called dirty bomb? Was it a chemical attack? We're now hearing from Time magazine that it may have included an assassination plot on some members of Congress.

RIDGE: What we do on a day-to-day basis from multiple sources, both domestic and foreign, and remember our allies who are prosecuting the war with us, they have detained and have literally hundreds if not thousands to interrogate, multiple sources.

Rarely do we learn who, when, what or how, but during the period leading up to our decision to raise the threat warning there was enough information out there, and that the soundings from different people we were able to corroborate who talked about events, who talked about attacks against American interests, both foreign and domestic.

That's the reason we took it up. We look at the information on a day to day basis, and at some point in time, we'll bring it back down based on the information that we have.

SCHIEFFER: But were you expecting something in New York, were you expecting something in Washington? Were you expecting a threat against some government building? Can you be more specific?

RIDGE: Well, unfortunately not. There was not enough specificity for us to drill down and to go into a particular community. Again, it was about multiple attacks around the country. And one of here advantages of the system, there may come a time when we have enough specificity that we can target a particular community, a particular region, a particular economic sector...

SCHIEFFER: It wasn't that specific?

RIDGE: ... we did not have enough to do that.

SCHIEFFER: OK. Let me just ask you one other thing. You -- your agency told people last week about duct tape, about plastic sheeting. There were surface-to-air missiles placed around the nation's capital. And then toward the end of the week you came on television and told people not to panic.

It seems to me that this somehow got out of hand.

RIDGE: I would -- what we told the American public -- actually, we answered the question that we get constantly: "What can we do as citizens?"

And at that press conference in anticipation of the question from your colleagues in journalism, and questions on the mind of Americans, we said, "Develop a communication plan," much like families sit down with their kids. They make sure their fire detectors are working and they say to the children, if a fire happens, this is what we do. Have a communication plan. Consider -- recommend getting an emergency supply kit. We didn't list duct tape. We didn't list anything. But there are plenty of web sites to give you an idea as to where you ought to go. And we said, "Be informed."

And then from that people extrapolated and took out from that long laundry list of recommendations, for some reason they focused on duct tape and plastic sheeting. And at the end of the day, there may be occasion...

SCHIEFFER: But you did say that's some of the things that you ought to stockpile...

RIDGE: Oh, clearly...

SCHIEFFER: ... did you not.

RIDGE: ... oh, clearly. There is no dispute about that. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross, there are certain emergency supplies that we think, we recommend to Americans to get. Not unlike people preparing down on the coast of Florida when they see a hurricane coming, not unlike people in this community did over the past day or two when they knew they were going to get couple of feet of snow, you take some precautionary measures. You put them aside. The worst case scenario, you've got to use them. The best case scenario is, that you may have to draw on them in some other event.

So we can't obsesse with our safety. We just want to be prepared.

We can't always predict, but we can always be prepared. The professionals will win this war against terrorism, the CIA, our troops, the FBI, the Border Patrol, Customs, Coast Guard, they'll win it. But this answers America's question, "What should we do? How can we be ready?"

Dana?

PRIEST: Well, the alert comes at the same time that the nation is preparing to go to war with Iraq, and in October the CIA predicted that if we were to do that, Saddam Hussein would send agents out and try to attack the United States.

Do you think that we will see an increase in the terrorist threat against Americans here at home if we go to war with Iraq?

RIDGE: I would tell you that we have to be prepared in this country, and we are prepared for any eventuality. There's often been an association in the past week or two with the possibility of going to war with Iraq, and al Qaeda attacking American interests.

And what we've learned about al Qaeda is that they will attack. They will launch a terrorist event if and when they are ready. And the information that we received and the reason we went from a yellow alert to an orange alert had nothing to do with Iraq, because they will -- al Qaeda will act independently of anything else.

We will be prepared. It's our job to be prepared regardless of the eventuality, regardless of military decision with regard to Iraq or anything else in the world. It's our job to be prepared.

PRIEST: Since the CIA says it's fair certainty that that will happen, do you expect that we will be at orange during the war? And if you are going to prepare, have you got something in mind now that will last for months?

RIDGE: Well, we have obviously in the new department of Homeland Security, working with federal agencies, working with the governors, working with cities, private sector and the like, there are various protective measures that we are learning that we need to take depending on the level of threat. The threat is based on information and intelligence gathering and at such time, if we believe we've got to raise the threat level, regardless of whether we're at war with Iraq, we will.

But it's an intelligence-based decision made on a day-to-day basis.

PREIST: Do you have a war plan for the homeland in the case that we go to war?

RIDGE: We would be prepared for that eventuality. IT's our job to be prepared.

SCHIEFFER: I want to go back to this duct tape.

RIDGE: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: If you seal up your home with duct tape, would you asphyxiate. I mean, I don't understand this idea.

RIDGE: Let me...

SCHIEFFER: I mean, if you seal off the oxygen, how can you stay alive in a room that's sealed off.

RIDGE: I'm glad you gave me an opportunity to explain that because there is some anxiety associated with that. The emergency professionals, those familiar with certain kinds -- with biological and chemical agents, and radiological agents way that there may be a need for families, businesses, whatever, to temporarily house people for four to six hours. The best way to do that would be to go to a room and have it sealed off.

We know for a lot of reasons you can't be there permanently for an extended period of time. But it's just like seeking shelter during a tornado, seeking a certain kind of shelter during a hurricane, during certain kinds of terrorist events, this would be means that you best protect yourself and your family. That's all it's meant to mean.

We recommend that you get it. Get the water, get these other supplies, put them aside, go to work, go to school, get back engaged in your community.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIEFFER: I want to give you a chance to respond to something else, because there are reports that your agency consulted focus groups before putting out this information. Is that true?

RIDGE: No. What is true is that on Wednesday of this week, we will launch a national ready campaign. It's a campaign we've worked for nearly eight to 10 months on with the Ad Council, with -- it's going to be a multimedia campaign. It's been supported very aggressively by the Stone Foundation. And as part of their effort to develop a theme and develop an approach to get America ready in the unlikely, the possible event of a terrorist attack, how do we educate rather than alarm?

And so, the Ad Council, like they do with everything else, they did market research. And I know somebody, I guess, out there in the political world, has said we did focus groups. The department didn't do any focus group.
We're working with the Ad Council in order to get a...

SCHIEFFER: You didn't use federal tax dollars to hire a focus group?

RIDGE: Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

SCHIEFFER: This was done by a civilian agency that was working with you.

RIDGE: It was done by the Ad Council, doing their market research, funded by the Stone Foundation.

The terrorists give us a choice. The terrorists really make us -- put us in a position where we make a choice. We can be afraid, or we can be ready. I think America just wants to be ready, because we're not afraid.

SCHIEFFER: OK.

PRIEST: How many al Qaeda operatives do you think there are in the United States now? And how many do you think that you don't know about?
FBI Director Mueller said last week that the most serious worry he had were all the people they didn't know about.

RIDGE: Well, I think you should always be concerned about what you don't know. I mean, if you do know some individuals and organizations that are sympathetic or supporters, then there are certain things we can do within our laws to protect ourselves potentially against what they might do to bring us harm.

But I think the FBI director is correct: In a country that is as open and as welcoming as we are in this country, that greets 500 million to 600 million people a year as visitors, we have to remind ourselves on a day-to-day basis that there are probably some people out there who would do us harm that we don't know...

PRIEST: So how many are they?

RIDGE: Don't know. I...

PRIEST: No idea?

RIDGE: I prefer to -- I suspect there are dozens and dozens. And I know for a fact that the FBI keeps very careful watch and knows who they think would be in a position to do us harm.

PRIEST: Do you think the FBI is up to the job, though? A lot of people are saying that they cannot transition from a law enforcement agency. So if they're still, a year later, saying they don't know how many there are, is that good enough?

RIDGE: Well, I watched Bob Mueller and his team begin to reshape that to respond to the president's challenge to make combating terrorism their number-one priority. And in terms of what they're doing to -- within the FBI to develop the capacity to not only get information but to analyze it, the CIA has given them dozens and dozens of analysts, the new technology that they're putting together so everybody can communicate with everybody else.

So you won't have memos lost out there in the field; that somebody in the headquarters of the FBI can get that information and conceivably act on that information.

It's going to take time. But it's moving in a fairly rapid pace, and I think the president is very confident in FBI Director Mueller's (inaudible) pull it off.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, here are reports about people that you do know about in this country, an estimate of 20 to 40 people who have had some sort of al Qaeda training. Now, that was a report that surfaced this week.

Am I to understand that we know who these people are and do we know where they are? And if we do, why haven't we arrested them?

RIDGE: Well, we do get information from time to time about people and possible connections to terrorist organizations. But in this country, as we operate under the rule of law and there's a burden of proof, to get from the accusation that they have been trained in a foreign facility, trained to do us harm, and actually proving it so you can take legal action, there are many steps that have to be taken.

I just want to assure you that the FBI and the law enforcement agencies who may have identified these people, if they can be identified to have done that under those circumstances, they would be apprehended.

SCHIEFFER: Going back to the orange alert, am I to understand that there are no plans to go back to a lower level? Or will that be considered?

RIDGE: It's considered every day. One of the things that America needs to know is that on a day-to-day basis, both with the principals in the morning with the president, twice a day through video conferencing with the principals from these agencies, they look at the threats, they analyze the information, and that's a decision we make on a day-to-day basis.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much.

RIDGE: Nice being with you again. Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: Nice to have you.

When we come back, we'll talk to Senator John McCain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with Senator John McCain. He is with us in Phoenix, Arizona, where the weather is a lot better than it is here in Washington, where we're expecting perhaps two feet of snow before this day is out.

Senator McCain, there were millions, literally millions of people around the world yesterday who demonstrated against the United States taking unilateral action against Iraq.

What's your response to that? Should that have an impact on our policy?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-AZ: Well, I respect the rights of any person to demonstrate on behalf of a cause they believe in. I also respect their right to be unwise and foolish, as they were in the 1980s when they demonstrated for the nuclear freeze and when they demonstrated against the sending cruise missiles to Germany.

And they can demonstrate for whatever they want, but please, please don't demonstrate on behalf of the Iraqi people. More people have been killed by Saddam Hussein, brutalized, tortured, mistreated, oppressed, than the sum total of all of those demonstrators.

So demonstrate, but don't demonstrate in front of the Iraqi people, because the Iraqi people have been brutalized by one of the worst dictators in history.

SCHIEFFER: Well, as you heard at the United Nations this week it was pretty rough going for Colin Powell and for the United States, because one after another people were saying the Iraqis are now beginning to cooperate, we should give the inspectors more time.

Do you agree with that?

MCCAIN: No, I disagree. The Security Council Resolution 1441 clearly indicated that the Iraqis had to disarm. It wasn't about a process that Mr. Blix and others may be pursuing.

The fact is that they are not complying with that resolution, and the Germans and the French, in my view, are rendering themselves irrelevant, but perhaps more dangerously they may be rendering the Security Council irrelevant because they're not enforcing compliance to their own resolutions.

PRIEST: Senator McCain, your colleague in the Senate, Senator Levin from Michigan, he made the accusation last week that the CIA and the administration really has not been supportive enough of the inspectors, they haven't given them the information that they need, or all of it, on the weapons sites.

What do you think about that? Are they trying to sabotage it from the beginning, as Senator Levin said?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, that's a very reckless charge that should be proved. Second of all, it's not up to the CIA or any other agency of the United States government to disarm Saddam Hussein, it's up to Saddam Hussein to disarm and comply with now 17 Security Council resolutions.

I am confident that the American government will supply whatever information they can without compromising their sources, and both the attitude and behavior of some in the Security Council, I think, borders on that same kind of recklessness.

PRIEST: What do you think it will mean for a post-Iraq reconstruction if we've so alienated the French and Germans, who after all make up three-quarters of the peacekeeping forces in the Balkans?

Are they going to be willing to help the United States in the long reconstruction in Iraq, do you think?

MCCAIN: I'm sure they will, because it's in their interest to do so.

The French have a long commercial connection with the Iraqis, and let me just say a word about the French -- they remind me of an aging movie actress in the 1940s who's still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it.

The cynical role that France is playing proves that if you are not, you cannot be a great nation unless you have a great purpose. And they've lost their purpose.

And it's very unfortunate, and perhaps Churchill and Roosevelt made a very serious mistake when they decided to give France a veto in the Security Council following, when the United Nations was organized.

PRIEST: So you don't think that people who disagree with the administration can have legitimate differences of opinion over, for instance, the link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein?

There seems to be a lot of people who have questions about that. Are you totally convinced with the administration's position?

MCCAIN: I'm totally convinced of one thing. Given Saddam Hussein's record of using weapons of mass destruction, of slaughtering his own people, that there is not a doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein would give a weapon of mass destruction to a terrorist organization, because they have common cause in trying to destroy the United States of America.

So there is no doubt in my mind as to what he would do. I don't know the connection that exists right now between the two, but I know they have common cause.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator, do I take it from what you're saying that at this point you don't have any problem with the United States going it alone?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all the United States will not go it alone.

Tony Blair has been magnificent and so have others. There's 10 (inaudible) nations; there's 17 of NATO allies who will be with us including countries in the region who have -- who feel they'll be a lot better off with Saddam Hussein gone.

So not -- it's France and Germany that are isolated. So we won't be going it alone. And yet we may not be going with the United Nations Security Council's agreement.

SCHIEFFER: Talk a little bit about the fragility of NATO at this point. Is there a chance that NATO could come apart here?

MCCAIN: I don't think it would be because of the Germans. We all know that there are reasons why the Germans are acting as they are because their chancellor was willing to take the most cynical anti-Americanism in order to get reelected. They're helping us in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan.

The French, I don't know what kind of wrecking crew they'd be as far as NATO is concerned. I never anticipated such outrageous behavior as blocking the emplacement of defensive weaponry in the country of an ally who is a front line stake with Iraq. That's just beyond the norms of any kind of predictable behavior.

So the alliance could be damaged. But I think if the French isolate themselves, as they are proceeding to do, then the rest of the alliance will hold.

PRIEST: If you put your military hat on for a minute, a lot of war planners are saying the most difficult part of the war fight will actually be in Baghdad. And that may be because Saddam Hussein puts human shields there and that pilots end up killing women and children.

How do you think Americans should prepare for that? And do you think we'll have the political resolve to keep that up if there are a large number of civilian causalities?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I don't think his army will fight. House to house fighting requires the most proficient discipline on the part of military people. And they don't have that.

I think that we're taking into account those kinds of possibilities. His army is very weak. I believe that we will win. There are certainly wild cards ranging from launching a chemical or biological weapon at Israel to the human shield situation.

But I have no doubt that we will prevail. And the region and the nation and the world will be better off, most especially the people of Iraq who have suffered so terribly under this brutal regime.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, I'm sorry. We do have to wrap it up right there.

Thank you so much.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: We'll be back with the final work in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And finally today, from the greatest generation to my generation, the military draft was the experience we all shared.

I wasn't drafted, but the draft was the reason I took ROTC in college, it was better to spend three years as an officer than two years as an enlisted man, I thought.

Right or not, those years were some of the best of my life. I got more from it than the country got from me, that's for sure. And that's the main reason I've always favored compulsory national service, military or civilian.

The draft gave us a greater appreciation of the military. Those who did not serve at least knew a friend or relative who had, or a family who had lost someone in the war.

These days we have a professional military, the best in the world. But the number of people who serve is such a small percentage of the population that many of us don't even know a military person, let alone what they do.

And we also tend to forget how much reliance now falls on Reserves and the National Guard. Thousands upon thousands of those citizen-soldiers have again had their lives disrupted, not just men anymore, but women, too, even some young mothers.

We're probably headed to war. Whatever your feelings about that, let's remember the young Americans, professionals and citizens-soldiers who've answered the call as Americans always do in time of crisis.

Without a draft to remind us, it is so easy to forget what they are doing.

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

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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