The Candidates On Terrorism At Home

In November, Americans decide whether Barack Obama or John McCain become the 44th President of the United States. In a new series, "Presidential Questions" CBS News anchor Katie Couric asks questions that move the candidates well beyond the usual sound-bites. Some questions will be about policy. Others will be more personal. All will give you a better sense of who these men are - and what has shaped them. What follows is Couric's question - and the candidates' full answers.

Katie Couric: Why do you think there has not been another terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11? And as president, how would you prevent that from happening again?

John McCain: Katie, I think we ought to give credit to the administration, to the president, and to the dedicated people who have worked from the level of our intelligence agencies around the world, to the local policemen, firemen, first responders, who have done such a magnificent job. I also, giving a little straight talk, think there's always an element of luck involved. I thank God every day, and so do all of us Americans. I think that we ought to have a closer relationship, probably, between Republican and Democrat on this. When we let our intelligence capability to monitor communications amongst would-be terrorists … or terrorists and we were gridlocked for so long is an indication that, perhaps, we've lost the unity that characterized America after 9/11. So I would work more closely with the leaders of Congress. I know them well. But I also think that we should unleash more of America's technology.

Couric: When you say technology, more technology, what exactly do you mean?

McCain: Whether it be … there's satellites. There's the kinds of technologies that are being developed in our national labs, as other places. And, by the way, part of that technology, I left that out, and that's human intelligence. Our technological capabilities are pretty good. They're gonna get better and we've got to work on getting them better. But we still haven't got the kind of human intelligence that can tell us the intentions of the enemy.

Barack Obama: Well … I think that the initial invasion into Afghanistan disrupted al Qaeda. And that was the right thing to do. I mean, we had to knock out those safe havens. And that, I think, weakened them.

We did some work in strengthening our homeland security apparatus here. Obviously, the average person knows that when they go to the airport, because they are goin' through taking off their shoes … all that.

Check out the other installments of Presidential Questions.
The problem is when we got distracted by Iraq. We gave al Qaeda time to reconstitute itself. And we now know, based on all the intelligence available to us that they, in fact, have set up safe havens back in Afghanistan, the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are now carrying out very aggressive actions against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and they are training to attack the United States once again. So now, my hope obviously is that we continue to prevent them from being able to move at all out of those safe havens. But our intelligence indicates … that the danger, the likelihood, of a potential attack is significantly higher now. And that has been an enormous mistake that I intend to correct when I'm president of the United States.