Examining Pre-Sept. 11 PDB

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", April 9, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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JIM ANGLE, GUEST-HOST: The White House worked today to declassify a document at the center of the controversy over what the president knew ahead of time about potential attacks on the U.S.

That document is called the presidential daily brief, it is highly classified, one of the most sensitive documents of any administration. But we know quite a bit about the PDB the president got on August 6, just days before the attacks.

Joining me to discuss that and other aspects of how to prevent future attacks is Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, the chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Thanks for joining us, Senator Roberts.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS), CHMN., SELECT INTELLIGENCE CMTE.: Well, thank you, Jim. It is a good opportunity. Thank you.

ANGLE: Let me ask you, first, why is it that PDBs, as they are called, are so sensitive?

ROBERTS: Well, you summed it up. It is the most sensitive advice that any adviser, i.e., the National Security Council, director of the CIA, any principals meeting could give to the in making the most vital, national security decisions.

If that were made public and subject to a lot of the arm chair commentary that we see today, why, I don't know if you could reach any decision. So on behalf of the national security, I think it's absolutely essential that the PDB's be kept private.

This particular instance may be somewhat unique, that's what the president and his advisers are trying to determine at the urging of the commission.

ANGLE: Some of the commissioners made it sound as if it there -- there was nothing to it, that all you had to do is just make a decision and just then release it publicly.

ROBERTS: Well, I don't quite understand that because every commissioner knows what's in it. Every commissioner has seen it. Everybody has talked about it.

ANGLE: Well, they have seen notes.

ROBERTS: Well, notes. OK. Everybody has rather generically described what is in it.

ANGLE: Indeed.

ROBERTS: Certainly from director Rice, certainly Dick Clarke and also the members of the commission. It seems to me they could make a very generic, say, conclusion and describe how they feel about it.

Now, on the other hand that this is so unique, especially because of the date and the time, and it has been discussed, it could very well be the White House says on this time, only this time out...

ANGLE: One time only.

ROBERTS: One time only. But then you're opening yourself up. Well, now wait a minute; if the one on August 6 was very important, what about the rest of the deck of cards? And so it is a difficult -- very difficult decision to make.

ANGLE: Well, as you said, the commissioners know quite a bit about it. They described it in some detail yesterday. Used phrases from it and asked Condoleezza Rice about it. Let's hear how she described the document during the hearings.


DR. RICE: It did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information, and it did not in fact warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.


ANGLE: Pretty straightforward statement. But skeptics and critics continue to believe that there's something in there that has not been disclosed, something that suggested the president and administration knew about what was coming.

You were a part of the joint inquiry on Capitol Hill, the Intelligence Committees, looked into the same thing and talked about that PDB what did you find about it?

ROBERTS: Well, basically, I am not going to discuss any specifics about it. But my recollection is, to use that term, is that it was generic, that it wasn't specific in regard to any specific attack. Usama bin Laden had been on tape all around the world saying as we declaring war against the United States.

Most of the information that the Intelligence Committee received during those months when the surge of chatter, so to speak, all of the collection that came in were warning about the foreign targets, i.e., the USS Cole (search) or something like that.

ANGLE: Now, your report from the joint inquiry on Capitol Hill noted that bin Laden had been talking about and trying to figure a way to attack the U.S. since at least 1997. The record over many years and about many terrorists groups has talked about hijackings, which was a favorite option of terrorist groups.

That seemed to be the notion of hijacking airplanes, not to use them as missiles. But the notion of hijacking seemed to be a staple over a long period of time in threat warnings, was it not?

ROBERTS: There were some reportings, I think the first in 1994. There was that one report from the Philippines that one individual wanted to blow up what? Fifteen planes over the Pacific Ocean. Most of this information dealt with normal hijackings or simply using bombs to explode planes.

My recollection is that I really don't recall any specific intelligence information. I'm not saying it didn't occur. But at least to me personally, I don't recall any specific information that said we would use airplanes as missiles, in regards to an attack like the World Trade Center (search).

ANGLE: Now, yesterday some of those on the commission were saying that August 6 PDB contained language that suggested that preparations were being made by terrorists for hijacking planes in the U.S. does that ring a bell with you? Does that sound right?

ROBERTS: I really can't speak to any specifics, but my recollection is that that is not the case. I'd have to go back and you know, really take a look at that.

ANGLE: Now, one of the things that Dr. Rice talked about yesterday was what she calls...

ROBERTS: If it was, it was very generic. It was not a specific thing in regards to say the World Trade Center.

ANGLE: Right. Right. One of the things Dr. Rice talked about were the structural problems, as she put it, talking about the walls between the CIA and FBI, couldn't share information.

We have got about a minute left. Those walls were knocked down in the Patriot Act (search). Why did it take all of this and the attacks to knock those walls down? Why did we have those restrictions in the first place?

ROBERTS: Well, the CIA, their primary pay -- or their primary mission, was counter terrorism and also terrorism activities and intelligence, in regards to foreign sources all around the world, but not domestic. It was the FBI who had a law enforcement duty.

Now, under Bob Muller (search) and also under George Tenet (search), and I will give a little credit where credit ought to be, we have what's called a Terrorist Threat Information Center. It's called TTIC, that's a marvelous acronym; but it's under the DCI.

And all of that information, all of that intelligence, all of that collection is gathered there; and now disseminated to the very people that it should be disseminated to. But before that there was a very clear difference between domestic and foreign.

ANGLE: OK. Got to go. Senator Roberts, thank you very much, sir.

ROBERTS: It's a pleasure.

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