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Rice to Testify: 9/11 Commission Member Reacts

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto", March 30, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

Watch "Your World w/Cavuto" weekdays at 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET.

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: Joining me now, 9/11 Commission member and former Republican senator from Washington State, Slade Gorton.

Senator, welcome. And let me add, please, that we called all the Democratic members of the 9/11 Commission, but none were available.

Senator, Democrats appear to be winning this issue, at least politically. The Bush administration is clearly on the defensive about 9/11 and Iraq. Is Condoleezza Rice’s (search) appearance a cave-in?

SLADE GORTON, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: I think the White House decided rather tidily that Condi Rice was the best possible person to answer the charges that Dick Clarke made a week ago. I wish that the White House had made that decision earlier.

And remember, the 9/11 Commission was unanimous on this. There’s been no partisanship, no division among the members of the commission on this issue at all. We have heard from her behind closed doors, but we think that the American people ought to hear from her in the way that she has now agreed to come before us.

VARNEY: Can she be thoroughly candid in public about who said what to who and when, and what intelligence or military assets were in place at that time?

GORTON: Well, remember, we had the secretary of defense and the head of the CIA before us last week. And for all practical purposes, they answered all of our questions. It is possible that a question could come up that is very sensitive, not so much from who said what to whom, but sensitive in the sense of, who is a secret agent, or something of the like, which she couldn’t answer in public. But I don’t think there will be many such questions, maybe not any at all.

VARNEY: Condoleezza Rice says that this will not -- will not -- set a precedent: 9/11 is a unique event, it’s a one-off shot, there is no precedent involved here at all. Are you satisfied with that?

GORTON: We are satisfied with it because we have gotten what we wanted. 9/11 was a unique event; the 9/11 Commission is a unique kind of commission.

VARNEY: But you don’t believe, sir, that there may be other unique events at some point in the future and again government officials will be asked to say what did they advise the president? This could happen again, could it not?

GORTON: Oh, it certainly could happen again, and it will be cited as a precedent when it does happen again. And it will be cited as a non- precedent when it happens again. And the future can take care of itself.

VARNEY: You said to Richard Clarke, during the hearings, you said, were there policy options available or even suggested that would have prevented 9/11? And he said, no, there were not. In other words, he basically said the administration could not have prevented 9/11. How did you feel when he responded to you like that?

GORTON: Stuart, the question was a little bit different than that. It was, "If all of your recommendations had been accepted by Condi Rice on the day after you gave them, in January of 2001, and implemented, would it have prevented 9/11?" And his answer was a very honest "No."

And I think that was the most important question asked last week. The rest is all smoke and mirrors.

No one made recommendations that would have prevented 9/11 at the foreign policy level. The prevention of 9/11, if it was to take place at all, would have taken place here in the United States. And it was a breakdown of law enforcement, of the FBI, of the CIA that could have prevented it had they not taken place.

VARNEY: Slade Gorton, former Washington State senator, thanks very much for being with us, sir.

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