Is the Nation Any Safer?

This partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, May 30, 2002 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House.

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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Welcome to HANNITY & COLMES. We're glad you're with us. I'm Sean Hannity.

And coming up tonight, accusations that New York police set free a suspicious gang of illegal Middle Eastern aliens over the weekend. Why? Because the INS didn't want to be bothered. We'll tell you about this story.

And will a government-sponsored exchange program that brings foreign Muslim clerics right here to the U.S. be an easy way for terrorist groups to slip into this country?

And how many countries around the world have arrested suspected al Qaeda operatives since last fall? Well, that's our question of the day.

Plus, hundreds gathered this morning to mark the end of the recovery effort at ground zero. Tonight, we'll be joined by one very special rescue team, and we're going to hear some of their stories.

But, first, I'll turn to Alan Colmes before we get to Ollie North and our top story.

L.A. sheriff -- they've got to release 400 inmates due to budget cuts.


HANNITY: Limited government. Less government intervention in our lives. I don't like to pay a lot of taxes.

COLMES: So you're happy that they're releasing these prisoners...


COLMES: ... because we can't afford to pay for them because...


COLMES: ... because of the budget cuts, right?


COLMES: So that's less government.

HANNITY: Defense and prisons. I want more of them.

COLMES: You know that there are a lot of people in prison who are maybe committed non-violent crimes or victimless crimes, people for drug use, drug abuse, who really...

HANNITY: You don't let people out because you can't afford the prison space.

COLMES: ... should be -- some of these people should be in drug-treatment centers, not in prison, and...

HANNITY: All right.

COLMES: ... these are people who have bail set very, very low to begin with.

HANNITY: You and all the Hollywood liberals can pay for it.

COLMES: Yeah, I'm -- me and the Hollywood liberals. That's my new singing group.

HANNITY: Exactly.

COLMES: Also. University of Arkansas, you'll be happy to hear, has a new course in the presidency of Bill Clinton. I don't know if you'd pass this course. But it's a Republican, by the way, teaching the course.

HANNITY: I heard that.

COLMES: So -- look, it's -- he endowed a chair there.

HANNITY: Hey, listen, I'm thinking Perjury 101. You know, how to pick up an intern. A hundred and one different ways...

COLMES: How to run the presidency even though they're trying to run you out of office and overturn an election. That's part of it.

HANNITY: A hundred different ways to pick up interns.

COLMES: Yeah. How to multitask.

HANNITY: Now to our top story tonight. The Justice Department has issued new guidelines that will ease restrictions on domestic surveillance by the FBI, a move that has many people concerned that it's too easy for the FBI to spy on ordinary Americans.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The guidelines contain very clear instruction about what kind of records can be kept. The abuses that once had been alleged about the FBI decades ago, about the keep of files or records about prominent figures in this country, would not be allowed.


HANNITY: But are these charges long overdue?

Joining us tonight, Colonel Oliver North, host of "War Stories" here on the Fox News Channel, and Ramona Ripston. She is the executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, Mike Dukakis's favorite group.

Let me go to -- Colonel North, look, there are some things that I like. I mean, it's amazing we only had 153 agents that were really working in terrorist units prior to President Bush coming into office. I mean, it's just a disgrace how we got to that low level.

But there's so much more that we can do first that we're not doing, Colonel. We haven't secured our borders. We don't have marshals on every flight. We don't have armed pilots. Why don't we do these things first? They're still not done.

OLIVER NORTH, "WAR STORIES" HOST: Well, John Ashcroft has got to be playing the role of Hercules at this point, trying to clean out the Augean Stables, and you may remember that Hercules succeeded because he diverted two rivers through the stables and flushed out all of the refuse that had

been left there by his -- over the years from the stables, and that's what John Ashcroft is confronted with, trying to clean up the mess of eight years of Janet Reno.

But let me just go to the heart of what we're talking about here tonight, and that's the FBI. I was heartened yesterday to hear that the FBI had a new mission, had new people, had new money, had a whole new focus, and that was counterterrorism. I find that to be a very good thing.

What bothers me is what happened today, and this sounds strange, I know, and I may find myself figuratively at least in bed with the ACLU, because I'm concerned not because John Ashcroft isn't an honorable man, not because Bob Mueller isn't a fine man and probably going to go down in history as one of the best directors of the FBI. All that's in place.

I think this president's doing the best job he can possibly do given what he was handed 264 days ago when 9/11 happened.


NORTH: But here's the problem. What happened today was to lift restrictions on the FBI that were put in place 27 years ago for very sound reasons, Sean, and those reasons were notwithstanding that notwithstanding the good intentions of people, abuses occurred that should never happen in...

HANNITY: Well, this is -- you know, we -- we have not spoken today, and I guess, obviously, great conservative minds think alike. I have the same concerns you have, and what bothers me, Colonel, and -- I'll move to Ramona here -- is we didn't do the things that we could do that are important first and then move into these other areas and discuss and debate, you know, how far we'll -- we ought to go on some of these things.

But we're talking about the FBI freely going in and infiltrating without any suspicion whatsoever, mosques and churches and our Internet. E-mail perhaps. Ramona, I -- I don't want to agree with you because I don't like the ACLU.

RAMONA RIPSTON, ACLU: Well, I find myself in agreement with both of you, and this is not the first time in history that we have the Oliver North and the ACLU has agreed. We helped Oliver North in his prosecution and...


RIPSTON: ... Fifth-Amendment rights.

I don't think this is a left or a right issue. I don't think it's a liberal or a conservative issue. I think conservatives have as much distrust of the FBI as liberals do. Remember Ruby Ridge. Remember Waco?

I think there is a lot of distrust about the FBI, and I think we've heard, you know, a few moments ago all the reasons why.


RIPSTON: We had good guidelines, and, if these guidelines were adhered to, we would not be usurping people's rights, and we would be safe. We want...

COLMES: The agreement on this show is driving us crazy. This is just not what HANNITY & COLMES is supposed to be.

Ollie, I'll just go after to you on one minor point...

NORTH: Go ahead.

COLMES: ... you know, we probably agree about what -- you agree with the ACLU, which is a red letter day here, but -- forgive me for saying the word "red."

But, look, the idea is that you -- of course, I could take a gratuitous slap at Reno and the Clinton administration. We -- this is not a political issue. The FBI has had problems preceding Reno, preceding

Clinton, and, of course, you had to take a gratuitous slap at her, as if that's what the problem was.

NORTH: Hey, Alan -- Alan, the reality of it is what happened on 9/11 was that the FBI -- we now know, and Mr. Mueller made reference to it today, acknowledging -- saying that the FBI had information that might have we may never know that could have helped us prevent 9/11.

And what happened? They had information that was jammed up the pipeline in a bureaucracy that had been created by Janet Reno for Janet Reno to basically allow her to do whatever she wanted with the FBI.

COLMES: That is...

NORTH: That's the...

COLMES: That is an absurd charge.

NORTH: No, no. It's...

COLMES: Absurd charge. And that's not what this is about because you guys...

NORTH: She had an FBI that didn't even have a computer on a desk, Alan.

COLMES: You know, I'm really disappointed in you because I really thought for a moment -- for a brief glimmer of a moment, I thought you and I could really get along tonight on this issue, but you've got to make it Janet Reno's fault.

NORTH: We're not going to get along -- we're not going to get along you know, I happen to...

RIPSTON: Do I get into this conversation?

COLMES: Yes. One second. Let Ollie finish for a moment. Then we'll go back to you.

Go ahead.

NORTH: I think it ought to -- what we ought to be looking at, Alan, is how the dickens the FBI got to be so top heavy that you have great FBI agents out there in those field offices who can't get an audience with the pope back in Washington, D.C. Louis Freeh set that up at the direction of Janet Reno.

RIPSTON: Look...

COLMES: All right. Go ahead, Ramona.

RIPSTON: The government, the FBI had enough information before September 11th. The difficulty was that they didn't analyze it, that they didn't know how to analyze the information that they had.

We as Americans want to be safer. But we want also to keep our freedom. These change in the guidelines will not make us safer. They will restore us to the FBI in the days of J. Edgar Hoover.

HANNITY: We've got to take a break, Ramona.


RIPSTON: ... days when Martin Luther King was surveilled, when people who criticized the government...

HANNITY: Hang on a second.


HANNITY: A hundred fifty-three agents on the counterterrorism wing of the FBI prior to -- this is insane, and I'm going prove it's political when we get back.

And still to come tonight, reports that the INS did not respond for a while when the New York City police department detained seven suspicious men from the Middle East. We're going to tell you about this story.

And should our government be encouraging foreign Muslim clerics to come to the U.S. using your tax dollars? One government-sponsored program has many people worried. We'll tell you about that straight ahead.



NORTH (voice-over): Their mission was to knock out a battery of German 88-millimeter artillery pieces at the top, some 10 stories up.


COLMES: That was a clip from this weekend's "War Stories" hosted by one of our guests tonight. Can you guess which one? It's Oliver North. Be sure to watch it this weekend.

Back to our debate.

I am outraged at what the FBI is doing. Let me show you what Robert Mueller said, quote, in today's "New York Daily News."

He admitted for the first time that his agency might have been able to stop the September 11th terror attacks if it had paid closer attention to clues and warnings from its investigators.

So you have a situation, Ramona, where they're rewarding the FBI by giving it more power when it couldn't harness the power it had properly in the first place, and the director admits that they bungled it. And what are they doing? Expanding their powers! It's insane.

RIPSTON: You're absolutely right. Where else in this society do you get rewarded when you bungle something?

COLMES: It is unbelievable.

RIPSTON: It doesn't work like that. They should be punished.

COLMES: They couldn't properly analyze...

NORTH: Alan...

COLMES: ... the information they had. The director admits it. You just saw what he said. And they want to expand it.

NORTH: Alan...

COLMES: Ollie, you want to defend that?

NORTH: Yeah, let me jump in.


NORTH: This man, Robert Mueller, former United States Marine, well-decorated for his heroism, and a remarkably effective prosecutor., had been on the job for a grand total of six stinking days when 9/11 happened. It's outrageous...

COLMES: I'm not blaming him for that.

NORTH: that you try to blame him for this...

COLMES: I didn't wait, wait, wait. Where did I do that?

RIPSTON: We're not blaming him.

COLMES: Where did I do that? What are you talking about?


NORTH: ... a mess.

RIPSTON: We're not blaming him.

COLMES: You're blaming him, Ollie. Don't misquote what I said. When did I do that? I simply said that they're expanding the powers...

NORTH: Well, you just sat there and castigated the FBI.

COLMES: ... when they bungled it in the first place.

NORTH: The fact is Robert Mueller is fixing the problem, and what happened yesterday is a very positive sign for refocusing the efforts of the FBI, instead of going around and recording the history of a crime that was committed, of trying to do what they can to prevent the next terrorist attack from happening in the United States.

COLMES: Did they fail, or did they not fail?

RIPSTON: That -- look, this is a return...

NORTH: Well, first of all, you're never going to be able to...

RIPSTON: ... to J. Edgar Hoover. This is a return to the time when Martin Luther King was spied on, when people who protested the war in Vietnam were spied on, people who criticized the government had dossiers built around them.

NORTH: We don't know that, Ramona.

RIPSTON: We don't want that, and we don't need it. We want to be safer. This isn't the way to make us safer.

COLMES: They are narrowing our freedoms, and too many people are willing to give up. And, as you know, as Benjamin Franklin said, they that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," and too many people are willing to give up those liberties in the name of safety, and it doesn't work. Historically, it's never worked, and that's what the FBI is doing here.

NORTH: Alan, you don't know...

RIPSTON: Look at our history.

NORTH: ... that that's...

COLMES: Let Ollie respond.

NORTH: You don't know that that's what's going to happen. My concern is not Robert Mueller. My concern isn't John Ashcroft. My concern is that we might end up with an attorney general who thinks it's a good idea to deal with people by burning them out of their place of living.

HANNITY: Hey, Ollie...

NORTH: You might get to the point we have an attorney general who thinks it's a good idea to sends kids back to dictatorships. That's my concern, the precedent that's being established right now is -- and the reason why we have a Constitution is not to protect us from good people like them, it's to protect us from bad people who do bad things.

HANNITY: Hey, Ollie, look, I -- look, this is driving me nuts here. You can't win with these guys on the left. They -- for years, they have undermined our intelligence-gathering capability. They've undermined our defenses. They've fought against -- you know more than anybody else covert operations in this country.

You have Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1990 wanted to abolish the CIA, get rid of it. That's political any way you look at it. In the '70s, Frank Church, a senator, wanted to nearly destroyed the CIA. I mean, you this and now either they you can't win with these guys.

NORTH: No. And on top of that...

HANNITY: They don't want them to do anything...

RIPSTON: There are guidelines...


RIPSTON: There are guidelines that have been in place, and those guidelines have worked.

NORTH: Ramona, the fact of the matter is...

RIPSTON: The FBI accumulated a lot of information. They failed to analyze it. That's what happened on September 11th.


NORTH: And, Ramona, the reason they didn't analyze it is because the structure that was created under eight years of Janet Reno, who's running for the governor of Florida...

RIPSTON: These guidelines go back to 1970.

NORTH: ... for eight years of Bill Clinton...

RIPSTON: They're not...

NORTH: I understand. I'm just telling you...

RIPSTON: They're not -- they weren't developed under Janet Reno.

NORTH: Look it, you know, the FBI saved my family's life. On February of 1987, the FBI, with a lawful surveillance in the United States, detected seven Libyans on the way to my house. They had a map on how to get there. They had a diagram of my house.

HANNITY: Yeah, but...

NORTH: They had the names of every one of my kids. And you know what?

RIPSTON: Oliver North, you of all people should...

NORTH: That was a lawful surveillance.

RIPSTON: ... know about the excesses of government. You know...

HANNITY: All right. Hang on a second.

RIPSTON: ... what...

HANNITY: Hang on one second here. Ramona...

NORTH: There are lawful ways of doing this.

HANNITY: Ollie, let me go to Ramona.

You know something, Ramona? If we heard the Ku Klux Klan or some white supremacist group, some militia group potentially could be involved in something -- even beforehand, I would want a group like that. I'd want some type of infiltration, wouldn't you?

RIPSTON: If there is a standard or a reasonable -- reason to believe that something's going to happen, yes, of course.

HANNITY: How about people -- how about just on general principle that they don't like...

RIPSTON: No, not...

HANNITY: Catholics, Jews, or black people.

RIPSTON: ... just because somebody had a different...

HANNITY: Isn't that common sense, to say that they represent a danger, or if some people...

RIPSTON: No. What...

HANNITY: ... have a religious fanaticism that...


HANNITY: ... and a strange interpretation of their religion...

RIPSTON: You cannot investigate someone because of their beliefs.

HANNITY: Why not?

RIPSTON: Because...

HANNITY: If they have nothing to hide, why can't the FBI go into a church and see what's going on...

RIPSTON: Because we have a Constitution.

HANNITY: ... or go into a white supremacist group...

RIPSTON: We have a Constitution that has...

HANNITY: ... and see what's going on?

RIPSTON: ... served us well all these years, our Constitution, and we should abide by it.

HANNITY: So that means -- that means we'll all be sitting ducks, and the only way the FBI will do -- will come in after the fact and clean up the mess because we did nothing proactive.

RIPSTON: No, that doesn't mean that at all. It means that they have to figure out how to analyze the information that they have...

COLMES: All right. Ramona, you...

RIPSTON: ... and they have to do the other things that you talked about.


COLMES: ... Ramona. Thank you, Ollie. Thank you very much.


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