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“Clueless On Charlie Rose”: Here’s The Transcript

Here’s the transcript of John Edwards on Charlie Rose on 9/11. Courtesy of Steve Emerson and Andy Cochran from the Investigative Project. (Emerson was sitting next to Edwards. Sorry it’s long. I’ve bolded the memorable Tom Clancy-John Edwards exchange. If I were at the RNC, my e-mail about it might begin: DO YOU WANT THIS MAN A HEARTBEAT AWAY FROM THE PRESIDENCY?

Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards’s response to 9/11: “Well, I think the– I think the starting place is to do the thing.”

CHARLIE ROSE: All right. Stay with me. John Edwards has joined us. The senator from North Carolina, a Democrat in the Senate.

Senator Edwards, tell me the mood in Washington and the feeling for what they — senators and congress people — might want the president to say and to do. I mean is there a sense of what kind of resolution the Congress might be called on by its leadership to pass tomorrow?

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Well, Charlie, I think what happened is the mood in Washington changed over the course of the day. I just dropped my three-year-old off at day care and was on my way to the office this morning when the first airplane hit the first tower of the World Trade Center. I got a phone call in my car.

And then when I arrived in my office, and I think this was the prevailing mood at the time, there were just lots of questions. What’s happening? How is this possible? And I think as the realization occurred that, among all of us, that what we were seeing on television was, in fact, reality, that these were– these events were actually occurring, over the course of the day I think the mood changed.

It went from questioning, then to disbelief, then to acceptance that in fact these things had happened. And I think over the course of the day a very strong feeling of resolution that we were going to be deliberative about this, but that deliberation was backed up by a feeling of anger, that this was something– that this was an attack on our nation, that our people were dying, that something was going to have to be done about it.

And I think by this afternoon when a bunch of senators met to talk with our leadership around five o’clock this afternoon, I would describe the prevailing feeling in that room — and there must have been 50 to 75 senators present — as one of quiet anger. There were a lot of people who were mad, were mad about what had happened, but were thoughtful and deliberative about the process of what the next step needed to be.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right. Let me ask this question of everyone, including Tom. Does this day change America in some way? Will we– are we going to be– are things going to be different for this country from now on out?

General Sneh, you’ve experienced more of this my people in Israel tell me because of attacks there, you know, that the whole country is on edge. Now this is one series of events on one day. Another shoe may fall, as some have suggested here. But does something change?

EPHRAIM SNEH: It seems to me that America today knows for one day what we experienced for several years; the feeling that there is no safe place. That a shopping mall, a restaurant, a bus station, railway station may turn in a moment to a target of a suicide bomber. This feeling prevails today in the United States. And I know that it takes a great deal of resolve and spiritual process to stand against such reality, if it takes a long time.

I would like to refer to one professional point to make. We’ll discussed a lot who did it. Nobody knows. One thing is very clear — a very serious, concerted intelligence effort is needed now to know who is behind it, who sponsored it. And it takes a very sincere and professional cooperation of the intelligence organizations of all the western democracies.


CHARLIE ROSE: OK. That raises an interesting question.

Go ahead–

SAMUEL BERGER: I want to– I’m sure everyone will agree with this.

This is enormous strong and resilient, which has faced challenges of monumental proportions before. The world now is watching us as to how we will respond to this. There should be no questions — number one — that everyone will be united behind the president.

There’s no question– there should be no question — number two — of our resoluteness.

But, while I think the landscape of international terrorism has changed, we cannot let this corrode the fabric of American society or the people who did that today prevail.

And so, while there are a whole series of things that have to be done in terms of security, in terms of precaution, in terms of intelligence, in terms of a strategy for dealing with this, we cannot let fear become the dominant self-fulfilling prophecy here which dictates how we live.

CHARLIE ROSE: But it also demands, I would assume–

TOM CLANCY: If I can jump in at this point, Charlie–

CHARLIE ROSE: –it also–

Go ahead, who is that?

TOM CLANCY: This is Clancy.

CHARLIE ROSE: OK. Go ahead, Tom.

TOM CLANCY: I’d like to agree completely with last statement.

The thing we have to keep in mind is the terrorist is a political actor performing on a political stage. His objective is cause political change in his target. We are the target at the moment.

If we change our society, the terrorists win. If we tell the terrorists, “We are who we are and what we choose to be, and you can’t change that, fella,” then we win.

CHARLIE ROSE: So, therefore, Tom, what kind of response do you think is demanded in order to make that statement to whoever did this act?

TOM CLANCY: Identify the target, locate the target, engage the target, destroy the target, and live our lives the way we choose to be. Remain the United States of America.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right.

Well, let me make that a specific. Let’s assume this is someone like Osama bin Laden or Osama bin Laden and they are being protected by a government of another country, what do you think we do?



TOM CLANCY: We tell–

CHARLIE ROSE: –go to that country and demand that they turn over somebody or some group of people or we will issue an ultimatum that the United States military–

TOM CLANCY: The most important–

CHARLIE ROSE: –will come in with full force?

TOM CLANCY: The most important thing the president said tonight was, you know, when he said that whoever shelters these people is to us the same as the people we are hunting.

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, you’ve said that.

TOM CLANCY: Now, that means we could– If we find out that Slobovia is sheltering these terrorists, we call the president of Slobovia. We tell him politely one time, “Don’t do that or something really bad’s gonna happen.” If he does not heed our words, the bad thing happens.

CHARLIE ROSE: And what’s the “bad thing” though, Tom? I mean, that becomes just–

TOM CLANCY: We destroy things that he doesn’t want destroyed. We hurt his country for committing an act of war against the United States of America.

Committing the act of war against the United States of America is a dangerous thing. It carries a heavy price.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right.

TOM CLANCY: We make people pay that price.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: But [crosstalk]–

CHARLIE ROSE: All right, Richard?

And then I want to go John Edwards.


I also was gonna raise the question. I was very struck by what John Edwards said earlier about the mood in Washington over the day. And I just wanted to ask Senator Edwards whether he– where he thinks the administration is going to go in asking Congress–

They’re going to need new funds, John. They’re gonna need legislation. Have they indicated to you yet where they’re going? And what do you think Congress is prepared to offer to them?

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Well, Mr. Ambassador, we– First of all, we’ve not heard from the administration yet — and, I think, understandably so — precisely what they’d like to see us do.

I’ve heard some of the discussion over the course of this program by you and other panelists. And I think you’re exactly on the right track. And, as I think you and I have already discussed in the past, this issue of terrorism, of course, is the greatest national-security threat we face in this country today.

There are a number of us who have been working on this issue. We’ve actually been in the process of drafting legislation aimed at accomplishing a number of things.

Number one — establishing terrorism as the kind of national-security priority that it should be.

Number two — making sure that the federal agencies who are involved in this are adequately and properly coordinated in their activities.

Number three — making sure that the institutions who are involved have the authority, the legal authority, to do what’s need– what needs to be done.

I’ve heard the discussion in this program — and we’ve talked about it in the past — the building of coalitions, internationally, to deal with this issue because we’re going to need partners around the world to make this process work.

But I think the single most important thing is for the American people and our government to recognize what an enormous priority this needs to be. And I have to say, Charlie — and you may have discussed this and I apologize if you have — but I think the will of the American people will become stronger as we go forward because they watched this devastation today.

But what’s gonna happen as we move forward through this thing is all of those people who lost their lives and who were injured at the World Trade Center and here at the Pentagon — brave Americans who were totally innocent in this process — this is gonna become a very personal thing for the American people.

And the American people are gonna respond in a strong and personal way. And I think they’re going to expect their leadership to do what’s necessary to insure that this sort of thing does not happen again.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right. Let me go to STEVE EMERSON–

TOM CLANCY: Gee, Senator.

But then what actually are you going to do? I think the– I think the American people recognize that this is a 10,000-plus dead American citizens. What action are we going to take, sir? What are you gonna vote for? What are you gonna authorize? What are you gonna fund?

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Well, I think the– I think the starting place is to do the thing–

First of all, there is an immediate response to what just occurred. And then there’s a long-term issue, which is the issue that I’ve been discussing. Long-term, we have the national-security threat of ongoing terrorism.

There are multiple things that need to be done in connection with that–


Let’s– What are they? What are you gonna do?

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Those are the things I just talked about — putting more resources in our counter-terrorism, making sure that the things that need to be done are in fact being done, making sure that the federal agencies who are involved are working together, making sure that they have the authority to do what needs to be done–

TOM CLANCY: Senator, you’re not–

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): –making sure that–

TOM CLANCY: You’re not doing anything. You’re just talking. What are we going to do? What action are we going to take?

CHARLIE ROSE: I think, Tom, what he is saying is “give the people that are responsible for this in the executive branch the resources to do it” is what his answer has been.

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): And, Charlie, if I can add to that, that has to do– that has to do with the long-term issue.

And, by the way, I think the building of these coalitions internationally are also a critical component.


Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): In addition to that, we have a specific response to these particular incidents, which is to identify who did this and go out and hold them responsible.


STEVE EMERSON, tell me know and what you have learned today and what you have heard and what– based on all the things you have known before, what perspective you have on this.

STEVE EMERSON, Terrorist Analyst and Investigator: Well, you’ll bear with me because I have not been able to listen to what’s transpired before in the program.

But clearly the lead indications are at this point, based on intelligence assessments, is that there is really only one group — led by Osama bin Laden — that had the capability, the wherewithal, the motive, and the– and who had evinced publicly his determination to carry the war into the United States. As of June of this year, he made a statement saying, “I’m gonna take the war into the United States.”

Number two — there is now an assessment of the cockpit tapes and the transmissions between the pilots and the radar stations on the– command station stations on the ground.

That will help determine what went on during those precious few minutes before the planes were exploded into the– into the Pentagon as well as the World Trade Center.

CHARLIE ROSE: Steve, I’m asking–

Have you– have you heard anything from sources you might have about any of that today, in terms of either statements that bin Laden might have made– Specifically, even though we have made clear that no one yet has the evidence that connects him to it, that suggests he was saying something specific might happen on this date, et cetera?

STEVE EMERSON: No, I have no information that he was warning about this particular date itself.

And, remember, I think, as Judy said appropriately, this type of operation takes a year– a minimum of a year, maybe two years for the reconnaissance, the intelligence, the rehearsal, and to plant the infrastructure on the ground.

And I think what the senator was talking about in terms of giving resources– I think there’s gonna have to be a lowering of a threshold for collecting intelligence on domestic-based groups.

And there’s no distinction anymore between domestic and international. They’re hear on American soil. And they’re here in Europe. And they’re in Beirut. And they’re all over.



JUDITH MILLER: Well, I think we’ve been talking about international coalitions and, as General Sneh said and Steve said, the importance of intelligence information.

I would just point out that the Osama bin Laden network’s apparently tried to carry out a huge attack on the United States and Jordan and other countries during the millennium. And that it was Sandy Berger’s administration which fortunately helped stop them in coop–

CHARLIE ROSE: This is the Seattle event–

JUDITH MILLER: Yes, Seattle.

SAMUEL BERGER: Not just Seattle.



SAMUEL BERGER: Amman, Jordan. And we now know that–

CHARLIE ROSE: This was all, you think, from Osama bin Laden? Or you don’t know?

SAMUEL BERGER: Yes, we do know.

And we now know that the U.S.S. Cole was actually scheduled for contemporaneous action. And the boat that was taking the explosives out to a different ship sunk.

So, there was an– there was a multiple effort.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right.

But that does beg this question, Sandy.


CHARLIE ROSE: Which is– and this has been raised today.

How much human intelligence do we have with respect to these groups?

TOM CLANCY: Practically none.

CHARLIE ROSE: Tom, you say what?

TOM CLANCY: Practically none.



TOM CLANCY: Because, you know, the human intelligence– the director of operations, TI, is the orphan child of the whole intelligence community.


SAMUEL BERGER: Yeah, there’s going to be a tremendous tendency here to pounce on the intelligence community.

CHARLIE ROSE: Saying, “You should have known. You didn’t know enough. You don’t have any–”

SAMUEL BERGER: When things go beyond the imaginable some–

TOM CLANCY: Why is [unintelligible] our driveway?

SAMUEL BERGER: –it is easy to–

CHARLIE ROSE: Tom, wait ’til I come to you.

TOM CLANCY: [unintelligible] our driveway?

SAMUEL BERGER: –to get in the blame game here.

I think the intelligence community is far more sophisticated about the bin Laden network than they were two years ago or four years ago. But what today suggests is that there’s a– there’s a heck of a lot we don’t know.


But were you hampered by your inability to do something when you were the national security adviser?

SAMUEL BERGER: I think what–

CHARLIE ROSE: Was there enough urgency to do something?

SAMUEL BERGER: Yes, certainly.

And we did on more than one occasion, as you know.


SAMUEL BERGER: We– we– we–

But I think the escalation here is going to change the risk calculation for the United States.

CHARLIE ROSE: Senator Edwards, do you think–

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: May I just make one very quick point?


RICHARD HOLBROOKE: We’re talking there about an intelligence failure. This was not so much an intelligence failure as it was a security failure.

We — all of us who go through these airport security — have been led to believe that we had a certain degree of safety. If it had been one plane, perhaps it’d been an aberration.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah, right.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: But clearly the people who did this identified a fatal — and I mean “fatal” in the most dramatic possible sense — a fatal flaw in airport security and then managed a very sophisticated operation to simultaneously exploit it in at least four different planes.

And perhaps will continue to. And right now, as we sit here tonight, the American security and intelligence services do not yet know exactly what that flaw they exploited was, which is what makes the administration’s decision on when to resume flights and other comparable issues quite tricky.


And how will they find that out?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I would defer to Senator Edwards on the sequence. But I just want to stress that, before we beat on people who are trying very hard to do their jobs in the intelligence field, let’s focus on why people are dead tonight.

It was a security failure today that caused this tragedy, and it was a huge one. There was a flaw in the way people get on airplanes. And how did they get in the cockpits? As General Sneh has said they undoubtedly killed the pilots ’cause no pilot would take a plane into a building when they could go into the Hudson and Potomac rivers.

So, something went wrong, and we sit here tonight and we don’t know what it was yet.

CHARLIE ROSE: General Sneh?

EPHRAIM SNEH: With various other countries to adopt again some of the methods that we use in order to have–


EPHRAIM SNEH: –the maximal security–

CHARLIE ROSE: But TOM CLANCY has made the point over and over, which is that when you have somebody who doesn’t care whether they live or die then you have a much more difficult problem.

EPHRAIM SNEH: The problem is not to hit the suicide bomber, but those who train him and send him to the mission.


EPHRAIM SNEH: And in this I hope that, after this horrible day, the activities of my small country will have more understanding and we shall listen to less exhortations about what we are doing.


All right. Well said.

Senator Edwards, do you think that there will be an examination — a legitimate, interesting examination — now about how this country is, in fact, vulnerable — whether it’s security risk or whether it’s an intelligence– and the need for more intelligence–

TOM CLANCY: Oh, Charlie.

CHARLIE ROSE: –and need to be more, that that will be one of the demands on the Congress– that rather than missile defense, maybe we ought to look at some other areas that deserve equal attention for American vulnerability.

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Charlie, I think there will appropriately be a demand from the American people for us to do all of those things.

I think that a lot of us have known, including some of your panelists who I’ve spoken to at length about this before– Dick Holbrooke, Sandy Berger — those guys all understand very well that this is the most serious and most imminent threat to our national security that exists.

So, there are a lot of folks who have known this. And I think what this event does is make it very, very personal to the American people. And I think they’re going to appropriately demand that we respond.

I just want to re-emphasize something, though, that Dick Holbrooke said just a minute ago. It would be absolutely the right thing to do to go in and examine our intelligence-gathering activities where we went– what mistakes we made, how we can do a better job, and what changes we can make. That’s something we absolutely– It’s imperative that we do that.

But the second point and the point that Dick made just a minute ago is this breach of security is critical because without that breach of security these terrorist activities could not have been executed. And sometimes that gets lost in the process, but the breach of airport security that allowed these events to take place is a critical component in this.

STEVE EMERSON: But let me just add one thing that–

I agree that breach of security must be analyzed, and we’ve gotta go through all the steps of trying to plug up the holes. But the bottom line is we have to recognize that the United States faces an implacable militant foe in the world today and it’s not just located in Afghanistan by bin Laden. He’s got cells all over.

This is an international organization that has an incredible amount of capabilities. It’s Islamic fundamentalist. They hate the United States–

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, not all Islamic fundamentalists.

STEVE EMERSON: Well, I would say “most”– I would say “all militant Islamic fundamentalists.”

The degree of celebrations you see in the West Bank today and in Lebanon today by people celebrating this act–

CHARLIE ROSE: I’m coming to you, Tom.

STEVE EMERSON: I think it clearly shows there is a major threat and that we have to not just flagellate ourselves and criticize ourselves for the intelligence failure — to the extent that it was one — but really go after the enemy that carried this out.

JUDITH MILLER: I mean, I would point out that the armed forces of the United States and many of our military bases and facilities and embassies have been on alert since June precisely because the U.S. government had intelligence information that a major terrorist attack was being planned.

TOM CLANCY: What is that?

SAMUEL BERGER: What’s qualitatively different here — and I agree with Judy, and we’ve closed embassies repeatedly — is an operation conducted within the United States.


SAMUEL BERGER: Obviously going on within the United States for weeks undetected.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right.

Let me go talk to TOM CLANCY.

One final remark, Tom.

What would you like to see the United States do? And I think you have said it well, which is identify who did this and go do something about it, as the president said earlier, “punish them.”

TOM CLANCY: Charlie, the first line of defense against terrorism is good intelligence information.

Senator Edwards, one thing we gotta do is beef up the operations directorate of CIA. That’s an agency of 20,000 people of whom maybe 800 are field intelligence officers. The mission here to infiltrate and find out about these terrorist organizations, essentially what the FBI did when they invented– when they sneaked Joe Pistone into the– into Mafia under the name of Donnie Brasco.

You infiltrate, and you learn what they’re up to, and then you break them up.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right.

TOM CLANCY: But to do that you’ve gotta have field spooks. And we don’t have enough field spooks.

CHARLIE ROSE: I’ve got less than a minute, Tom.

You expected to get strong international support along the line we’ve talked about earlier here.

TOM CLANCY: Anybody that doesn’t support us is in for–

CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you, Tom. I’ll be right back.

TOM CLANCY: For a major headache.


CHARLIE ROSE: Ambassador Holbrooke?


CHARLIE ROSE: They’ll be responsive to this event?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I think– I think you’re gonna see an enormous set of consequential actions stemming from this. And, if the United States shows the leadership that we can show, should show, must show, we will get support, but not 100 percent.

There are gonna be some people in the Mideast, some of Israel’s neighbors who are going to not come all the way. But– [crosstalk]

SAMUEL BERGER: But, of course, ultimately they will be consumed by the same forces of militancy–


SAMUEL BERGER: –unless they stand up to– [crosstalk]

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Well, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are afraid of just what Sandy’s talking about.

CHARLIE ROSE: Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Sure. That they’ll get overwhelmed.

CHARLIE ROSE: They’ll be consumed by the same forces that were on the attack here.


CHARLIE ROSE: Senator Edwards, do you expect some kind of sense of the Senate to come out tomorrow and the next day?

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Oh, I think by the end of the day tomorrow, Charlie, there will be a very strong resolution passed by the Congress.

CHARLIE ROSE: Saying what?

In 25 seconds.

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Saying basically that we universally condemn what occurred and that we’re prepared to take action necessary to prevent it from occurring again.

CHARLIE ROSE: The resolution of the Senate, the Congress, the American people, across the board.

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): That’s exactly right.

CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you, all.

I thank you for coming in for this live program from New York and from Washington and from Arkansas, looking at this day that people have declared an act of war against the United States.

Thank you, we’ll see you.

TOM CLANCY: OK. See you, Charlie.


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