Transcript: Dianne Feinstein, Pete Hoekstra on 'FOX News Sunday'

Written by Chris Wallace / Published March 05, 2007 / Fox News Sunday

The following is a partial transcript of the March 4, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now to talk about what's really going on in some of the world's most dangerous countries are two key members of the congressional intelligence committees, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Pete Hoekstra.

And welcome back, both of you, to "FOX News Sunday."

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: Thank you.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA, R-MICH.: Thank you.

WALLACE: Congressman Hoekstra, let's start with reports of this attack by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan looking for high-value targets. What can you tell us about it?

HOEKSTRA: I can't tell you a whole lot. I mean, it's very plausible that what's being described is happening, but I think this is one of those things — you don't talk about it while this action is under way.

And we'll see what the results are in the next couple of days. Then we'll hear more about it.

WALLACE: OK.

Senator Feinstein, this week, the new intelligence director, Admiral McConnell, told Congress that he is very concerned that Usama bin laden and Al Qaeda are rebuilding in northwest Pakistan.

How serious is the threat? And what kind of job is President Musharraf of Pakistan doing in rooting out the terrorists?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think it certainly is a threat. I mean, we've been hearing that for some time now. And I think the concern is that they can easily extend their terrorist arm into the European community and Great Britain. That's a deep concern, because then it's just the ocean for us.

And I think as Vice President Cheney went to Pakistan to talk with President Musharraf that the Pakistanis either have to let us go in or go in themselves when they have intelligence. And I think the kind of half measures that the Pakistanis have taken in that particular area don't stand us in good stead.

There's no question that there's going to be, I think, a spring offensive in Afghanistan, that they're trying to reach out, that training is going on, recruitment is going on and we have to have some pinpoint attacks that produce some dividends. Hopefully, this will be one of them. We'll see.

WALLACE: Let me just ask, because, I mean, you're both — and I can understand your sensitivity. Is something going on?

FEINSTEIN: Well...

WALLACE: Senator Feinstein?

FEINSTEIN: ... I think there's an ongoing campaign. More than that, I can't say.

WALLACE: OK.

Congressman Hoekstra, it's interesting, because a top Taliban leader, Mullah Obaidullah, was arrested this week the same day that Vice President Cheney met with President Musharraf. There has been a history when a top official goes to meet with Musharraf, suddenly there's a kind of show arrest.

How do you assess the threat from Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and what Senator Feinstein mentioned, which is the possibility a lot of people are talking about of a very tough spring offensive against our forces in Afghanistan?

HOEKSTRA: Well, I think there's no doubt that we've degraded the capabilities of Al Qaeda, but they are regrouping. You know, the activities that we've got in Pakistan and along the border — I mean, we've got a full court press going on there. We may want Pakistan to do more things.

But you know, President Musharraf is facing elections in September. There are parliamentary elections next January. We need stability in the regime. We need this regime to survive.

And there's a reason that they've called this the ungoverned areas. No one has really been able to go into these areas and take control, but the Pakistanis have been doing a number of things to help us go after Al Qaeda.

WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, we decided to tackle this subject of the quality of U.S. intelligence after it came out this week that the intelligence community has revised its estimate of the situation in North Korea, that they were very certain that North Korea five years ago was pursuing a program for highly enriched uranium. They are less confident about that now.

Question: How good has our intelligence been about North Korea? And what effect has that had on our relations with that regime?

FEINSTEIN: I think the gathering of intelligence with respect to North Korea has been very difficult. And the drop in the level of confidence on the uranium-based development I think is an indication of that.

I, for one, am very pleased to see this agreement. I don't think you can underestimate the value of China in keeping the North Koreans on track now in seeing that this plutonium-based program is disassembled and that North Korea is brought into the mainstream.

I think one of their ministers is due in the United States this week to begin discussing some normalization of relations.

I don't think we are well served by isolating countries. And the degree to which this isolation ends and it becomes productive — and I think now you've got all the six parties looking very carefully at every development. This is a little different from the '90s. So I am very optimistic.

WALLACE: Congressman Hoekstra, some conservatives suggest that the administration is downgrading the level of confidence about its intelligence in North Korea because it is, quite frankly, hellbent on pursuing an arms control process with North Korea and it doesn't want to let anything get in the way.

First of all, what do you think about that theory? And secondly, do you believe that North Korea is or isn't pursuing a highly enriched uranium program?

HOEKSTRA: Well, I think the administration has sent out a clarifying statement on exactly what they meant to say this week. Let me say two things.

I think Congress needs to take a very close look at this agreement to make sure that it's not a legacy agreement. Legacy agreements cut corners. We need to make sure that there's verification in this agreement. We need to make sure that North Korea comes clean on whatever nuclear weapons that they have in place.

The other point that I want to make, building on what the senator said, is we still don't have the intelligence community overall to give us, as policymakers, the information that we need to make good decisions in North Korea, Iran and other places.

WALLACE: That's a pretty striking indictment.

HOEKSTRA: Well, it is.

WALLACE: I mean, if the intelligence community hasn't given you the information, how do you make policy?

HOEKSTRA: Well, you always make policy with imprecise information, but you know, there are some things that we've been disappointed with — the stand-up from the leadership in the intelligence community.

You know, we've had the conflict between the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, you know, with Secretary Rumsfeld and Director Negroponte not giving us a quick start on intel reform. Now we're changing leadership in the intel community.

So we've had problems in standing this up and developing more bureaucracy, and it's a concern about the leadership in the intelligence community, not the folks who are working this 24/7.

FEINSTEIN: I think there's this point, too. We now do know that North Korea has nuclear devices. The question is how many. The question is where are they assembling these. Is it just Yongbyon, or is it other places?

And because of the underground nature of the facilities, it's very difficult. North Korea is a long way from us, and the intelligence infrastructure is not that good, to be very candid with you.

So it's a difficult problem to know with certainty. That's why it's so important that there be this agreement.

WALLACE: Let me move to another country, Senator Feinstein. What about Iran? How much do we really know about its nuclear program? And how much do we really know about whether the government is behind these efforts to supply Iraqi insurgents with these highly explosive and highly lethal devices?

FEINSTEIN: Well, we know that they're on their way to develop a nuclear program. The question comes how long would it be before they, too, had a nuclear device, and that there's some degree of sophistication in their work.

Now, having said that, the question comes, is Iran really united that it has to become a nuclear power? I don't believe it is. I believe that there's a leadership split. I believe that the supreme leader is very different from the president of Iran in this respect, and that it may well be possible to work something out with Iran.

And so I am very pleased to see the shift in the administration. When Secretary Rice came before the Senate Appropriations Committee and talked about this regional summit in which the United States would take part and the G-8 nations, I think that's exactly the way to go, to bring the light of day and the preponderance of nations into this effort.

WALLACE: Congressman Hoekstra, just briefly, because we have to move on to other subjects, your feelings about Iran and how much you really know about what's going on there.

HOEKSTRA: Well, we don't know a lot about some of the specifics, but I think if you take a look at the bigger picture, their activities with the nuclear weapons program, their relationships with Hamas, Hezbollah, their activities in Iraq, Iran is clearly somebody that we need to be very, very concerned about.

This is not an ally in the war against militant radicalism. They're not an ally in getting us to be successful in Iraq. We need to focus on them and I think some of the changes and some of the steps that are being taken by the administration are very positive.

WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, you're also a member of the Judiciary Committee, and I know you're upset about the firing of these eight U.S. attorneys. The administration says that it's for poor performance, not politics.

FEINSTEIN: Well, what's strange about this — never before in history has it happened that in a short given period of time, at least seven were called and told they should resign by a specific date in January. I think that's been pretty well established.

Now, the problem is that the Patriot Act had in it an amendment which gave the ability to the administration to appoint an interim U.S. attorney permanently, not subject to a limited period of time, pending confirmation.

We in the Senate believe it's very important that U.S. attorneys be confirmed by the Senate. That's really what's going on now. Some political things may well emerge. There are going to be a series of hearings. I think we'll have one in the Senate on Tuesday. I believe the House will have one on Tuesday. And we'll see what facts emerge.

But I think there's a lot of evidence that this was done in a way to bring in some bright young Republican operatives into these positions. We'll see.

WALLACE: But let me ask you about that, because one of the U.S. attorneys who is being fired is Carol Lam...

FEINSTEIN: Correct.

WALLACE: ... of San Diego, who was behind the prosecution of Duke Cunningham on official corruption charges.

Last June you wrote to Attorney General Gonzales about her failure to pursue immigration cases. Take a look. You said, "The low prosecution rates have a demoralizing effect on the men and women patrolling our borders."

Senator Feinstein, weren't you complaining about exactly what she's being fired for?

FEINSTEIN: Yes, but I subsequently found out that the cases in which she was engaged are major cases and very important cases, and that it was really a kind of prioritization, and that my understanding is that when this was discussed with her, she made changes.

The thing about Carol Lam is in the San Diego community, by the FBI, by the judges, this is a U.S. attorney that was very highly respected.

And therefore, to summarily say — which is synonymous with firing — you're going to be out of here, which can effectively end a career for a U.S. attorney, is very surprising to many of us.

WALLACE: Finally — we've got about a minute left; I'd love for you to split it evenly — a brief comment from both of you about the situation in Walter Reed and how you feel the administration's handling it.

Congressman Hoekstra?

HOEKSTRA: It's an appalling situation. Hopefully they're putting in place the leadership that will make sure that our troops get exactly the kind of quality care that they make. The sooner they get focused on this, the better.

WALLACE: Senator?

FEINSTEIN: Secretary Gates is a breath of fresh air. He's taken action, and not only low-level people but high-level people have been replaced, and I think that's welcome action.

WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, Congressman Hoekstra, we want to thank you both so much for coming in and talking with us today.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

HOEKSTRA: Thank you.

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