FTN - 9/30/01, Part 1

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BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, has the investigation into the terrorist attacks moved overseas? Attorney General John Ashcroft will be here in a special expanded edition of Face the Nation.

It is 19 days after the terrorist attacks. What do we know about the investigation so far? We'll ask the attorney general.

Will new terrorism legislation endanger civil liberties? We'll talk with senators on the Judiciary Committee, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chairman Pat Leahy of Vermont. And we'll talk with Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Should pilots on commercial airlines carry guns? We'll ask the former head of American Airlines Bob Crandall and Duane Woerth, the head of the Airline Pilots Association.

And we'll get comprehensive analysis from former Senator Sam Nunn, Tom Friedman of the New York Times and former Defense Secretary Bill Cohen.

Gloria Borger is here, and I'll have a final word on Mayor Giuliani. But first, Attorney General John Ashcroft on Face the Nation.

Good morning again. And we begin with the attorney general.

Mr. Attorney General, thank you so much for coming this morning.

JOHN ASHCROFT, Attorney General: Good morning, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: The news out of Pakistan this morning is a report that the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan says that the Taliban does have Osama bin Laden under their control but that he is in a secret place for his own safety. Can you tell us anything about that?

ASHCROFT: No, I can't. That's obviously a report that they're making.

We are very concerned about Osama bin Laden. Obviously he is a person to whom there are very substantial links. The roots of this terrorist both activity and threat are in Afghanistan. We know that not only are the roots in Afghanistan, but we have seen the manifestation of it here on our own soil and followed it as an international conspiracy that's most threatening and seen it wind its way through Europe in planning, training and other things. So this is a very substantial network.

Whether they have him or not, it's pretty clear that the president has stated without any question that those who harbor or protect or support terrorism are considered to be among those who are equally responsible.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Mr. General, at the outset of this, everyone seemed to be pointing to Osama bin Laden, all roads seemed to lead to him. Have you now, however, broadened your investigation? And to whom?

ASHCROFT: We've never narrowed the investigation. We have always been open to any information. We haven't made assumptions. And I did make a statement this last week that we did not rule others out.

If you'll look carefully at the face of terrorism in the last several years, there have been cross-reinforcing links between the al Qaeda organization and a number of other terrorist groups. And for us to be exclusively focused woulprobably be unrealistic.

We want to follow this investigation where the evidence leads us. And the evidence clearly leads us to the roots of this operation in Afghanistan. But we don't want to indicate that there couldn't have been participation by cooperatives and collaborators of a variety of different settings.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Mr. Attorney General, a number of arrests that have been made. Are you anywhere close to filing charges against anybody?

ASHCROFT: We have made a number of arrests. And my number-one job is to keep any recurrent terrorism from striking in the United States. We have arrested and detained over 500 people. We would hope that we would be able to disrupt, interrupt, delay, otherwise impair any additional terrorist activity.

It's clear to me that this conspiracy against the United States, which manifested itself in the attacks of September the 11th, is international, it's well-financed. I don't have any reason to believe that the entirety of those involved perished in the situation. So we're doing whatever we can.

And that's why we're - we've arrested individuals, detained individuals and frankly will do everything we can to make sure that we don't have a reoccurrence.

SCHIEFFER: Well, now you've said you do not believe the "entirety." What does that mean? Do you mean there are some other people still out there?

ASHCROFT: Well, we believe that there is the likelihood of additional terrorist activity. And it is our job to do whatever we can to interrupt it, to disrupt it. That's why the legislative package is so important to us.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just interrupt you just for a second, because I know there have been two men arrested, taken off a train down in Fort Worth. That they had hair dye. They had a large amount of cash. They had box cutters. There's this other fellow who was arrested, I believe it was up in Minnesota, trying to get flight training just to learn how to steer an aircraft. There seems to be a lot of attention tension focused on those three.

Do you, in fact, believe there were other plane hijackings planned? I don't think we've ever quite pinned that down.

ASHCROFT: We have not been able to rule out plans for hijacking additional aircraft. And we don't have conclusive evidence. But certainly we know that there were a number of other individuals who were out of status in terms of their immigration who are involved with very questionable activities, whether they be flight training, whether they be - you know, we talked seriously about crop-dusting aircraft.

And frankly, we've taken steps to disrupt and to try to make impossible the use of crop dusters for any attack that would be chemical or biological.

But we need the legislation which is before the Congress. And talk will not stop future attacks. Legislation could help us have the tools to interrupt.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about that n just a minute, but I want to make sure I understand what you're saying here. You've said you have not ruled out other attacks. Do you mean on the day that these attacks happened or do you mean now?

ASHCROFT: I mean both. Frankly, we believe that there are others - there may be in the country who would have plans, prepositioned, preplanned to do things. Our intention would be to disrupt them.

SCHIEFFER: Still out there?

ASHCROFT: Yes. And they could have been on the day of the occurrence. An investigation obviously is ongoing. It's not complete.

And we think that there is a very serious threat of additional problems now. And frankly, as the United States responds, that threat may escalate. That's why it's important for to us have the tools to fight against terrorism and foreign powers, agents, spies and terrorists.

SCHIEFFER: It would appear from what we know that perhaps two other airliners may have been earmarked for hijacking on the day of the attack. Do you think there could have been more?

ASHCROFT: I'm not in the position to try and assess specific numbers.

BORGER: Mr. General, from what you have done, do you believe that you have stopped impending terrorist attacks?

ASHCROFT: You know, you can never know what you prevent. There obviously are risks and we want those risks to be depressed the risk of further attack. As we increase the tools we have the risk goes down. But if we don't build our capacity to fight terrorism, the risk goes up. And we want to reduce the risk rather than to allow it to remain high.

That's why I'm so intent on working to get quickly an agenda through the Congress. I talked to Senator Leahy this morning. We've worked diligently with Senator Hatch, who has been very aggressive to help us in this respect, along with Senator Leahy. But we need something more than talk. Talk won't stop terrorism. Tools help reduce the risk of terrorism.

BORGER: But what about their concerns? They're talking about an anti-terrorist measure that's pending in the Congress. There are some concerns, obviously, that you'll be infringing on civil liberties, particularly detaining non-citizens who are under suspicion of terrorism. Can you compromise on this in some way to get this...

ASHCROFT: Well, frankly, the only thing we asked for there was that, for people who were illegally in the country and whose status was being already adjudicated in the courts, they were being processed in the system, we wanted to keep them from being released while their case was being completed. So we just wanted those suspected terrorists who are already charged with other violations of the immigration law to be detained on a continuing basis.

This isn't a threat to the civil rights of individuals. This is just saying, while the court proceedings are going on regarding violations of the immigration laws, we'd be able to keep suspcted terrorists in jail. I think that's something we ought to be able to do.

And if we can't, I've got to find a way to do that. I don't want to be releasing suspected terrorists onto the streets of United States of America who have been - who are being adjudicated as violators of the immigration laws already.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Mr. Attorney General, is what you're saying here is the reason some of these people are under arrest is not because you think they may have some something to do with this, but because you fear they may attempt to do something now?

ASHCROFT: Well, very frankly, we believe that those who have violated the terms of their immigration status, and they have associations in some way with the group of individuals who were on the airplanes or part of the terrorist network, we think that they present a higher risk, and we have so argued in proceedings.

And we think we ought to be able to keep those people whose immigration status is already in question, is already being litigated. We ought to be able to keep those people in detention.

SCHIEFFER: Well how many of the people you've got in detention would you put in that particular category?

ASHCROFT: Well, we've got a quite a number of them. Now, there are people who are in detention because they have violated state and local laws. There are people in detention because they are on material witness warrants and there are people in detention because they have violated their immigration status.

I would hasten to add that, as a safeguard, each of these individuals is the subject of judicial review, so the judicial branch of government oversees. And if this process - and if there are undue infringements, if there are any unconstitutional activities, the courts can remedy them.

BORGER: Even if you pass what you want to pass in this country, it's very clear from your investigation that in Europe there have been terrorists cells in operation. Do you believe that they, A, are still in operation, and that there's something you can do about it here?

ASHCROFT: Well, very frankly, we need to do everything we can here at home. And to say that we need to have airtight surveillance on spies, terrorists, foreign agents - and that's all we're asking for, that we have the same capacity to surveil them that we do have drug dealers and for organized crime figures - that's something we can do.

Now, there are provisions in the enactment that we've offered to the Congress that would allow us to use information gathered by foreign governments. And I think that information gathered in accordance with the law of foreign governments should be available to us to use against terrorists and spies.

But I call upon the Congress to act quickly. The vice president has said October 5 should be a deadline for acting, and I really believe we need that kind of expedition. Talk will not prevent terrorism. We need to have action y the Congress. We need the tools to prevent terrorism.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Attorney General, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

ASHCROFT: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: When we come back, we're going to talk to two people who are key to getting legislation passed, and that is Senator Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch, the ranking men on the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a minute.


SCHIEFFER: With us now from Burlington, Vermont, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy. Here in the studio, the ranking Republican on the committee and the former chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch.

Gentlemen, would I say to both of you that the attorney general just laid out some fairly sobering facts for us, or were told a fairly sobering story I would say. And that is, he seemed to be saying a lot of these people who are in jail are not people they suspect of having something to do with what happened during the attacks, but people who may be still planning to do something.

Senator Leahy?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-VT: Well, I think the attorney general stated the facts correctly. Obviously a lot of these people that are there they now will find - as they've already found with some - they'll find they're not involved.

But I think that the attorney general and the director of the FBI have been moving very aggressively. I've talked with them virtually every day, sometimes several times a day, and have told him I thought he was doing an extremely good job. They're trying to work this out.

Just as, in the Congress, Senator Hatch and I have been working closely together. I have high praise for Chairman Sensenbrenner and Congressman Conyers in the House as they have tried to resolve differences between members of Congress, oftentimes members in the same party, as we try to bring together legislation that we can present to the president.

SCHIEFFER: Well, are you close, Senator Hatch, to getting together legislation you can all agree on? Because when the attorney general first came up to the Congress, a lot of the things he laid out there were real concerns about perhaps this is going too far.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-UT: Well, most people don't realize that we don't have the same tools for going after terrorists in our criminal laws today that we have for going after drug lords and drug pushers and sexual exploiters of children and things like that, or the mafia. All we want to do is give the same type of law enforcement tools to our current law enforcement that we use against the mafia and against others who commit high crimes in our society. And it's a very, very difficult thing.

I've suggested that we have to get this bill done by about next Monday. I want to compliment Chairman Leahy and our counterparts in the House. Chairman Leahy has been moving, I think, steadily toward helping the White House and helping General Ashcroft and others to et this done the way it has to be done.

But I don't think we can delay it any longer. Let's be honest with you. If we don't get this done so that we can electronically surveil these terrorists and we can do a number of other things that currently are not permitted under Title 3 of the criminal code, we may find ourselves in a position where we might have another one of these terrorist acts. And I think we've got to do everything in our power. I believe Chairman Leahy and I will get that done.

BORGER: Senator Leahy, then, what is the sticking point for you?

LEAHY: Well, there are far less than there were just a couple weeks ago. I think that the first things that came up - everybody had their own laundry list in there. And I think they found the House of Representatives, where they wanted to move and write a bill last week, they slowed up. A number of key Republicans objected to parts of the bill; a number of key Democrats did. As I said, I think Chairman Sensenbrenner and Congressman Conyers are trying to bring everybody together, as Orrin and I have.

You know, after we had the terrible attack at Oklahoma City, we passed legislation within a couple of months in the Senate. But then it took almost a year before we could reconcile the difference. What we're trying to do is reconcile the difference now.

But there are some things we can do immediately. We've had roving wiretap, for example, as Orrin has mentioned, in criminal cases. We can apply that to these foreign intelligence things so if you make a phone call from a house and go to a disposable cell phone, then go to a friend's phone, then go to pay phone, that we can follow that.

We obviously have to have the same - we obviously have to strengthen the penalties, and we can do away with the statute of limitations on terrorist matters.

SCHIEFFER: What is the problem, though, Senator Leahy, with holding some of these aliens indefinitely? Has the attorney general modified his original request on that?

LEAHY: Well, I think that the - you know, the Justice Department has the power to, even without any new laws, hold people for longer than 24 hours.

I think everybody knows that we're going to have to make sure that we have some kind of a check and balance in there. We don't want to be like countries that we criticize all the time when - if an American goes there, they can hold them without even telling them what they are holding them for. We want to have that kind of check and balance.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Senator Hatch, what do you see as the main problem before the Congress right now, and what has to be done?

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