Sen. Bob Graham on Fox News Sunday

Following is a transcripted excerpt from Fox News Sunday, May 5, 2002.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: The Bush administration sought $38 billion this year for homeland defense, but some congressional critics say the president isn't doing enough. One of them, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, joins us now from our New York studio.

Also here with questions, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News, and Fox News contributors, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio, and Juan Williams, national correspondent for National Public Radio.


MARA LIASSON, FOX NEWS: Senator Graham, I wanted to ask you about the Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and, you know, anonymous administration officials said no matter how reprehensible, we have to deal with him. Do you agree with that?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-Fla.): Mara, I agree that we have one voice when we are dealing with foreign leaders, and that is the voice of the president of the United States. We'll have an active debate before foreign policy is set, but once it's established, it's the commander in chief's responsibility to carry it out.

And President Bush has apparently reached the judgment that, of our options to have someone to deal with on behalf of the Palestinians, that at this point Yasser Arafat is the best of what's probably not a particularly strong field. And in that regard, I would support the president.

LIASSON: And have you had any knowledge of these documents that the Israelis are making available to American officials that show direct links between the Palestinian Authority and the financing and the carrying out of terrorist acts?

GRAHAM: I'm aware that there are such documents that, on their face, they appear to be very incriminating. They're apparently going to be presented to representatives of the administration later today in Washington and then will be a focal point for the discussion on Tuesday between the Israeli prime minister and President Bush.

LIASSON: But that -- those documents, if you see them and you decide they are credible, that wouldn't change your opinion about the necessity to deal with Arafat?

GRAHAM: Well, I -- from what I've heard, they confirm suspicions rather than raise suspicions for the first time. And the suspicions have been that Yasser Arafat has been at the center of actions of terrorism by various PLO forces and that Arafat has had a goal of the destruction of the state of Israel rather than arriving at a peace with the state of Israel.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Senator Graham, you've been at this for a while, bound to have some thoughts about it. What are your thoughts about what Yasser Arafat represents? Do you believe, A, that he has supported and perhaps even conducted terrorism and, B, that he does indeed have as an ultimate goal the elimination of Israel?

GRAHAM: I would say first, yes, he has supported, certainly acquiesced in acts of terrorism.

HUME: And do you believe he continues to?

GRAHAM: And there's no evidence that he has desisted from that as the continued acts of terrorism that we have seen in the last several days.

Number two, I think a turning point in Yasser Arafat was when he had presented to him a settlement back in December 2000 and January 2001 which would have given to the Palestinians almost everything that they had said was their aspiration and negotiation. He turned it down. Why did he do it? Well, one of the conclusions is that he didn't want peace. That his ultimate goal was to continue a war against Israel until eventually Israel was expunged from the map.

HUME: Well, Senator, let me just raise this question with you then. That being the case, and your having seen that as many others do, setting aside for the moment with a question of whether you believe he's a terrorist, what hope do you see then of ever being able to reach a peace accord with a man who walked away from an offer which you've characterized here as very generous indeed?

GRAHAM: It will be extremely difficult. The president has apparently decided that among the choices, and none of the choices probably include a Thomas Jefferson or a Benjamin Franklin opportunity for leadership, that Yasser Arafat, as besmirched as his past is, the best choice available.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: Senator Graham, Newsweek magazine's reporting in their editions that will hit the newsstands tomorrow that the White House has concluded that the Office of Homeland Security, run by Tom Ridge, is not working.

So switching subjects a little bit here, do you believe that Office of Homeland Security led by Tom Ridge, is not working, and would you be in favor of some sort of change?

GRAHAM: I would be in favor of changes in two areas. One, I believe that the fundamental strategy to win the war on terrorism is not a defensive strategy but rather taking the war to the enemy.

And we have now been in Afghanistan for almost seven months. We're now in what's been described as a manhunt more than a war. I think it's overdue that we start carrying this war against terrorism to places other than Afghanistan.

GRAHAM: The president has defined victory as the elimination of international terrorists wherever they are. Apparently, the first wave of that attack is going to be directed against Al Qaeda, first in Afghanistan, then around the world. I think it's time to get on with the next phases of the war against terrorism so there's a clear signal that we do not define the war as just being Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Second, here at home, we need to strengthen our homeland security. What we've found is that the current agency, which largely depends upon the goodwill of other components of the executive branch to work together, is not functioning at the level that the problem requires.

And so, many of us are urging that there be a Cabinet agency established, which would have the responsibility for things like border protection, and that there be, within the White House, a person much like Condoleezza Rice, who would have the specific responsibility from the highest executive level with the presidential appointment and confirmation of the Senate and statutory authority to organize our war against terrorism.

WILLIAMS: So in your opinion then, Senator, the problem is not Tom Ridge — and you have said that Tom Ridge gets and A for effort, but you question the impact he's had —  in your opinion, the problem is not Mr. Ridge but, in fact, the structure of that office?

GRAHAM: Absolutely right, Juan. I believe that Governor Ridge was an ideal selection. He has a good executive background. He served in the Congress. He understands the relationship between the federal government and the state and local governments, which will be a key part of our homeland defense strategy, but he just doesn't have the tools to get the job done.

SNOW: Senator Graham, you've said a number of provocative things in answering the first question Juan raised, and I want to get back to a couple of them.

You keep talking about being aggressive in fighting the next phase of the war. What are you talking about?

GRAHAM: Well, what I'm talking about is that we can spend an unlimited amount of money trying to make America secure, and we're going to be spending a great deal, and that's appropriate. But a society which is fundamentally as open and free as the United States is always going to have significant vulnerabilities to terrorist attack.

SNOW: Well, let me...

GRAHAM: So if we want to give our people the maximum security, the place to win the war is going to be by taking it to the terrorists, where the terrorist are. And the terrorists aren't only in Afghanistan. We need to have a strategy to identify the terrorists, form coalitions, position our resources and take them out.

SNOW: Let me pin you down here. Are you talking about Saddam Hussein?

GRAHAM: I'm talking about, first, the balance of Al Qaeda in the places where they are in a position to do the most damage to the United States, which, in part, includes the United States of America, where there are significant numbers of Al Qaeda sleepers still awaiting instructions as to how they should implement the training that they've received.

We also need to be looking at other international terrorist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere.

SNOW: You once said that you thought there may be 100 or more Al Qaeda sleeper cells still in the United States. Number one, do you still believe that's true. And number two, if so, how do we rout them out?

GRAHAM: I believe that's a conservative estimate. And we rout them out by the best possible domestic investigation and then action where they are found.

The fact that we have detained so many people, several thousand over the last six months, is part of the strategy of disrupted potential terrorism within the United States.

LIASSON: When you talk about 100 or more sleeper cells here, are those identified sleeper cells that are under surveillance or is this just your guess about how many are out there?

GRAHAM: First, the number 100 is intended to refer to individual operatives.


GRAHAM: How, in some cases, they're organized as a one-person, one-cell, in some cases, there are several people that compose of cells.

HUME: Is this an estimate, Senator?

LIASSON: But we know who these people are? Are these identified individuals that are under some kind of surveillance?

GRAHAM: We are -- we know who a substantial number are. We are trying to gather a complete list of all of the terrorists in the country. In fact, as the Senate Intelligence Committee and its House counterpart takes up the budget for next year, I anticipate this is going to be a priority.

HUME: Are you saying here, Senator, that the administration is being insufficiently aggressive in pursuing these terrorists at home and overseas?

GRAHAM: I'm particularly focused on the fact that I think overseas we have almost completed the task in Afghanistan. It's not -- it is not 100 percent, but it's probably 96 percent. Now we need to start carrying the war against terrorism to other parts of the world in order to send a strong signal that we don't define the war on terrorism as just being Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

HUME: Well, Senator, you know better than most people than most people what our intelligence agencies are up to. I'm not asking you to be specific as to countries, but are you saying here that our intelligence resources are not being properly devoted and aggressively devoted to routing out Al Qaeda and other terrorist cells that threaten us elsewhere around the world?

GRAHAM: In my judgment, we have been insufficiently aggressive in moving beyond Afghanistan in those areas where we know there are significant Al Qaeda capabilities and beginning to lay the ground work for other international terrorists beyond Al Qaeda.

HUME: What do administration officials say when you, as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, raise this issue and this criticism with them?

GRAHAM: They say we want to finish the task in Afghanistan before we proceed elsewhere.

Also, frankly, the issue that you discussed with Dr. Rice of what's going on in the Middle East has been a disruptive factor in terms of our organizing for the next phases of the war on terrorism.

SNOW: Senator, a couple of quick final questions. First, there is a report that the FBI was tracking some Arab men who had been going to flight schools in Arizona and elsewhere. Now, none of them were directly involved in what happened on September 11. Is it your sense that any of them may in fact be members of the Al Qaeda cells that you have discussed?

GRAHAM: I don't know the specific individuals who were the basis of that communique between the Phoenix FBI office and central headquarters. The communique apparently essentially said, "We have a suspicious circumstance here of a large number of Arab nationals who are enrolled in flight schools in our community. We think that you ought to check this out, see if there is a national pattern."

At that point, there is a question as to just what the central office of FBI do with that suggestion. And that's likely to be one of the subjects that we will take up when the House and Senate committees of intelligence commence their review of the September 11 events.

SNOW: A final question. One of your colleagues, Senator John Edwards, has said today that he believes that Colin Powell, the secretary of state, is being undermined by people elsewhere in the administration. Do you think that's true?

GRAHAM: I do not think he has gotten the kind of support that we would expect the secretary of state to receive. He was sent to the Middle East without much preparation, without a set of goals that were realistically subject to accomplishment. And apparently, once he was there, were various either public or back-channel statements made to the parties with whom he was meeting which were not reinforcing, not consistent with the message that he was delivering.

SNOW: All right, Senator Bob Graham, thanks for joining us today.

GRAHAM: Thank you.