This is a partial transcript from The War on Terror: The Hunt for the Killers from January 8, 2002. To order a complete transcript of the entire broadcast click here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: One of the things we're not going to let the terrorist do is to cause us not to behave like Americans and enjoy our freedoms and enjoy our neighborhoods and enjoy traveling and enjoy the great wonders of our country. They think they can shut us down? They got the wrong country they're dealing with!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JON SCOTT, HOST: Today the Heritage Foundation sent the Bush White House a list of 25 steps to protect Americans against another terrorist attack. Earlier, I asked Heritage fellow and former attorney general Ed Meese about the nuts and bolts of this report.
ED MEESE, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: One of the key recommendations is to stress the importance of state and local governments in dealing with the problem of homeland defense. After all, it's the local agencies — the police, the fire, the emergency medical people — that are going to be the first responders if there is an attack, a terrorist attack on the United States. And they're also, really, our first line of defense in terms of getting intelligence and getting information about potential targets, as well as perhaps potential terrorists.
SCOTT: But you've already heard the complaints from state and local governments that they don't have the dollars to pay for the kinds of programs that are being expected out of them already in the wake of September 11th, to say nothing of the kinds of programs that might be outlined in your report.
MEESE: Well, that's exactly what our report deals with and recommends that the federal government provide funding, provide training, lead exercises, and in essence, provide some leadership and some coordinating functions that will assist the state and local governments in being part of the total partnership.
SCOTT: We're looking at some National Guard soldiers on patrol right now at one of the airports. And one of your critical complaints is that the National Guard, I guess, has been sort of overused in foreign deployments. You want to see them used only within our borders.
MEESE: Well, I think it's very important to recognize the role of the National Guard, which is primarily a state military organization designed essentially for the protection of the homeland. That's their first priority. And of course, over the years, particularly during the last administration, when they tried to deploy our military forces kind of on the cheap, they did not increase our active army to take care of those deployments. And as a result, they've had to use the National Guard now as kind of a fill-in. We think our national security strategy has to be looked at so that we recognize the importance of having the National Guard available at home.
SCOTT: So no more sending guards into Bosnia, for instance.
MEESE: Well, at least, it certainly would be limited, perhaps for training purposes, but it would be very minimal. And the important thing would be to have the National Guard carrying out its primary mission, which is defense of the homeland.
SCOTT: Here's another one of your suggestions. You say that we ought to enhance the private sector's role in infrastructure protection. What do you mean by that? How do you do that?
MEESE: Well, basically, when we talk about infrastructure, we're talking about communications. We're talking about transportation. We're talking about water facilities. We're talking about food production. Obviously, most of these are in the hands of private sector organizations. And so what we need to do is to have the private sector assist local government in making an inventory of possible targets, as well as working with governments to improve the security of these facilities.
SCOTT: Catherine Herridge just told us about this Justice Department program to aggressively go after people who have overstayed their visas, especially young men from countries known to harbor al Qaeda cells. Now, it's your former Justice Department that's going to be charged with this doing this work. Is John Ashcroft going to take all kinds of heat for some kind of a racist policy here?
MEESE: Oh, I don't think he is at all because, first of all, we're not going after people on the basis of race. We're going after people on the basis of having violated the law and violated the requirements and the restrictions of their visa or the other basis on which they entered the country. So it's going after people who are violating the law, not simply on the basis of race.
SCOTT: Former attorney general Ed Meese, thanks.