Published November 09, 2003
The following is a transcribed excerpt from FOX News Sunday, Nov. 9, 2003.
TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: Joining us now to discuss the terror attack in Saudi Arabia and other intelligence-related issues, Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Senator Roberts, first the Saudi bombing. It is suspected to be an Al Qaeda action. Look like Al Qaeda to you?
PAT ROBERTS, U.S. SENATOR (R-Kan.): Oh, very much so. We had a briefing in the Intelligence Committee warning about this about a week ago, that Saudi Arabia could very well be the subject of an attack. That's happened.
It signals to that family over there, the Saud family, that they are part -- or, they are a target of terrorism. We have had much better cooperation with the Saudis since the first attack in Riyadh.
It also indicates that terrorists really don't care who they attack. It's just another example of the global war on terrorism and why this is going to be a long effort.
SNOW: Do you expect other attacks in the near future?
ROBERTS: I don't think there's any question about it that, you know, they're going to be very global in nature. We had an indication that something could happen in this country, in -- I think it was Great Britain, and then also, obviously, Saudi Arabia. And that's why we withdrew our people from the embassy.
SNOW: Now, the fear in the United States is somebody would hijack cargo planes, either from America or from neighboring countries, and try to crash them. Is that the nature of the threat we're worried about right now from the...
ROBERTS: No, it wasn't that specific, in terms of a cargo plane or whether it was a biological attack or a dirty bomb or just bombs and explosives, which is what they normally use. It was just the fact that we were entering into Ramadan and we heard a lot of reporting, a lot of chatter, and so we were very much on alert.
SNOW: You mentioned dirty bombs and biological attacks. Do you believe Al Qaeda has the capability to do one or both?
ROBERTS: I don't think there's any question about that. But I do think they do resort to bombs and explosives. That's their favorite mode of attack, and I think that would be the number-one priority issue. Of course, if you and I sat down with a tablet and we listed 10 things that we thought that they would do, they'd probably do number 11.
SNOW: So don't count on that, in other words?
ROBERTS: Yes, indeed.
SNOW: All right. Now, last Tuesday, somebody leaked to Fox News's Sean Hannity a Democratic staff memo that laid out a strategy for making political hay out of Intelligence Committee investigations of the White House.
Among the key points in the memo: "Pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by administration officials." And, "Prepare to launch an independent investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the majority. The best time to do so will probably be next year."
Senator Roberts, your reaction?
ROBERTS: Well, the one thing you didn't show was "to pull the trigger," which I think is an interesting term.
I was stunned by this memo, shocked by this memo. We have a 30- year history in the Intelligence Committee of nonpartisan activity, dating clear back from the Frank Church days. And what this memo has done is really poisoned the well.
Our leader, on Friday, got up, Bill Frist, the majority leader, and asked, "Would somebody please disavow this strategic partisan attack plan?" It's been a week, and we have had nobody, except a couple Democrat members and Senator Miller from Georgia, publicly state that this should not be done.
This is really, in the words of Bob Kerrey, who is the former vice chairman and a Democrat and from Nebraska and a good friend, said this tears at the comity of this very important committee because of the importance of the committee in regards to our national security. I'm very upset about this.
SNOW: Senator Evan Bayh made some comments on the Senate floor regarding what may have been part of the inspiration for this. He talked about some pressures on Senator Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the committee. Let's listen to what Senator Bayh had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR EVAN BAYH (D-IN): Senator Rockefeller has been under intense pressure -- intense pressure -- by some others to pursue a much more partisan line of inquiry, to be much more confrontational. Instead he has chosen to try and pursue the cooperative path first.
SNOW: Has Senator Rockefeller said anything to you about this?
ROBERTS: We had a private conversation about it, and I have worked with Senator Rockefeller in the past; we've had a good working relationship.
But somebody has to disavow this memo...
SNOW: Well, then, was this...
ROBERTS: ... or it's going to be very difficult to put this committee back together again.
We are going to finish the inquiry. That's our primary duty right now, in terms of the credibility and the time on this of intelligence prior to going to Iraq.
But it's going to be very difficult to put the committee back together again without somebody saying we're not going to launch this attack plan, this partisan attack plan, and pull the trigger, not only on me, but on the entire committee.
SNOW: Well, Senator Rockefeller said that there's nothing partisan about this; they're examining the legal options.
ROBERTS: Legal options? Read the memo. "Pull the trigger"? "Castigate the majority"? "Wait till next year"? It really prejudges the whole inquiry. It says that we're guilty until proven innocent, in regards to the use of the memo.
We are about 90 percent done, and for this to -- and we have worked very hard to get all the documents from State and from the Department of Defense and from the White House, who is now working in a spirit of cooperation.
Now we have this very partisan attack memo laying out there, with some members of the Senate actually embracing it, reveling in it. They are destroying the nonpartisan history of this committee, as described by Senator Kerry.
That really bothers me, not so much because it's personal -- I felt a sense of personal outrage about it -- but when you are the chairman of the committee, you have to try to pull together and work together because of the responsibility of the committee and how important it is to national security.
SNOW: Do you believe it is going to be possible to work with the Democrats on the committee to complete the job in a manner you see...
ROBERTS: It's up to them.
SNOW: ... proper?
ROBERTS: It's up to them. I hope so. It's up to them.
SNOW: You said last week, "We face mounting intelligence challenges in places like North Korea, Iran and, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan. Members across the aisle should carefully reflect and decide whether their caucus should repudiate this plan and embrace our nation's security instead of their political self-interest."
Now, it's interesting, you talk about the intelligence challenges, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has now shut down the committee for the time being.
ROBERTS: We're going to do the reauthorization part of it. That there's any agenda that would pop up that would be terribly important, we'd have to focus on that. But the regular -- all the regular meetings that we have of the committee -- I can tell you, my Republican colleagues on that committee are outraged.
SNOW: But is it not also important at this time -- we've heard a lot of talk about the quality of intelligence in Iraq right now. We are concerned about the quality of intelligence in North Korea. How can you possibly shut down the committee at such an important time?
ROBERTS: Well, we're not going to shut down the committee in terms of the briefings that we get, either individually or otherwise.
You mentioned North Korea. We are very concerned about the Tae Dong II (ph) missile, whether it will be tested. That's the missile that can reach the United States. We're very concerned about the fact that, apparently, North Korea is going ahead with its nuclear program without any testing. That was just released, by the way, in regards to the CIA publicly, but we've been very worried about that.
Yes, it's a matter of concern.
SNOW: Do you believe North Korea now is ready to use nuclear weapons?
ROBERTS: Oh, I think they could if they wanted to, but that's why we're entering into a very strong diplomatic effort with China to convince them, along with Japan, along with South Korea, that that's not the best answer.
But I think that probably Kim Jong Il wants to be the Musharraf of that area, and think that if he plays a nuclear card, that's the only one he has to play. His country is a basketcase, but if he plays a nuclear card, well, then, he's somebody.
SNOW: Is it important for the United States to have a show of military force in that region to discourage him?
ROBERTS: I think it's important to have a military presence in Korea, but there is no military solution for this kind of thing. If you would launch an attack on South Korea, 60 percent of the country would be destroyed. So we have to really negotiate and really do that very strongly.
SNOW: All right, Senator Pat Roberts, thank you for joining us.