Transcript: Will Rice's 9/11 Testimony Hurt President Bush?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, April 2, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This commission has been charged with a crucial task. To prevent future attacks, we must understand the methods of our enemies. The terrorist threat being examined by the commission is still present, still urgent, and still demands our full attention.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: President Bush earlier this week, explaining why he did decide to allow his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice (search), to give public testimony before that 9/11 Commission.

Robert McFarlane (search) was national security adviser to President Reagan. Today's big question, Mr. McFarlane, could Condi Rice inadvertently create problems for the president next week?

ROBERT MCFARLANE, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: John, I don't think so. You know we have forgotten, I think, the original purpose of this commission, which was not to affix blame, that it is disingenuous to imagine that there is somewhere lurking in some file cabinet a body of information that people ignored and thus are blamed or blame-worthy for 9/11. This is simply implausible. I agree, however, that the White House has been somewhat clumsy in not cooperating fully, whatever merit there was and claims of executive privilege were dishonored decades ago. So, the more they cooperate, the better off we are to allow this commission to get back on its original purpose and avoid this politicization.

GIBSON: But even in the politicization department, we've seen commission members using their position there at the commission table to harangue witnesses from the Clinton administration. You expect them to go pretty heavy on Condi Rice. You've been in her job. You've watched her. You've assessed her. Do you think that she will be a good witness for this administration in defending this administration from attacks that have gotten to be pretty political?

MCFARLANE: Well, I think she will be an excellent witness. She is a person of poise and enormous intellect and, again, there is no — nothing to cover up. There is no smoking gun that would indicate there was a body of absolute certain knowledge concerning the timing and nature of that attack. That's just not a sensible assumption.

GIBSON: You know, there's this translator who is — has made herself available to the independent newspaper in London and she also testified February 11, I believe it was, before a closed session of the commission. And she says — this is a 32-year-old Turkish-American woman who was employed along with dozens, if not a few hundred others, translating documents from Arabic. And she said that it was clear from stuff that she translated that the idea that terrorists would use planes as missiles was out there, that it was there for anybody to pick up that they read the documents. Now when somebody comes in like that, a 32-year-old translator and says I saw it, does that carry a lot of credibility?

MCFARLANE: Well, take it in isolation, it sounds quite alarming. It is very plausible that on the same day or soon after there was an equivalent report equally credible that says there is the high likelihood that they will carry a suitcase bomb across the Canadian border, that separately they will use a car bomb as has been the M.O. of terrorists in many places. In short, this report is far from having said that on September 11, they're going to seize four aircraft and crash them into the World Trade Center. It didn't say anything like that. It said conceptually this is a way an attack might happen. In office when I was there, you would get this kind of report or a report concerning a cross border activity, a car bomb, or a dozen other ways in which great harm can be done, but nobody ever had — and I don't believe the Clinton administration or the Bush administration had anywhere near a body of fact that would have led them to conclude this attack was going to happen on 9/11. It just isn't plausible.

GIBSON: Robert McFarlane, the national security adviser under President Reagan. Mr. McFarlane, it's always good to talk to you. Thank you for coming in. Appreciate it.

MCFARLANE: You bet, John.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.