Transcript: Talking Intel Reform

Published November 22, 2004

| FoxNews.com

The following is a transcribed excerpt of "FOX News Sunday" for November 21, 2004.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: With intelligence reform blocked, turmoil at the CIA and new concerns about Iran and North Korea, we thought it was just the right time to talk with our first guest today: Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House panel.

Welcome to both of you. Good to have you here today.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JANE HARMAN, D-CALIF.: Thank you.

U.S. SENATOR PAT ROBERTS, R-KAN.: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: All right. A major overhaul of U.S. intelligence was blocked yesterday by some House Republicans despite the support of the president, by all of the Senate and by the speaker of the House.

I'll start with you, Senator Roberts. What happened?

ROBERTS: I don't think it was only House Republicans. I think some of us who have been working for reform perhaps underestimated the strong undertow of opposition to this and support for status quo.

And I think if you want to assess blame or at least, you know, discuss the reason why, change is tough. We have tried intelligence reform for 24 straight years and have not been able to do it. This is the 25th year. When Eisenhower came in as president, he tried to change the Department of Defense; couldn't do it. It took us five years to get the Goldwater-Nickles jointness reform of the military done. So this is just the first year.

The good news is that the president has provided authority to the CIA director that sort of tracks what we would like to do — we'd like to do more — and also set up the national counterterrorism center.

But there's been a lot of opposition to this from the first. Some of it is turf, you know, quite frankly. Some of it is from the Pentagon. Some of it, quite frankly, is from the White House, despite what the president has said.

And there are those who just really believe that in the middle of a war, somehow, somehow this reform is going to endanger that very close relationship between — or that (inaudible) between the intelligence community and the warfighter. That is a false claim, as far as I'm concerned.

And so you put all those factors together, and unfortunately intelligence reform went down. And as far as I'm concerned, Congress gets a big fat "F" in regards to that effort.

WALLACE: Congresswoman Harman, let me ask you about this. Did the president push hard enough for this? Did the Pentagon basically go around and, in a sense, sabotage the president's efforts? Did Speaker Hastert not have control of the Republican caucus? What happened?

HARMAN: Well, I think Pat Roberts gives the Senate too little credit. They passed the bill 96-2. Fifteen out of 17 of their conferees signed up for the conference report yesterday before things came unglued in the House. Senators Collins and Lieberman did a masterful job leading the Senate through this.

The problem was in the House, and the problem was that some members of the House Republican majority dug in, they never wanted a bill, they never will want a bill, and it was unfortunate that Speaker Hastert couldn't go around them.

And more unfortunate is that the president, as commander in chief, not the secretary of defense, the president, as commander in chief, couldn't get the secretary of defense to stop his opposition, which has been ongoing for months and which emboldened some of these House folks to dig in.

WALLACE: So you're saying while the president was pushing for this reform, the secretary of defense was...

HARMAN: Was resisting it, in public. It was absolutely clear in his testimony before Congress that he opposed this bill.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, sent a letter in about three or four weeks ago that made it much harder for us to get the compromise we did.

It was a very good bill in which the Senate and the House Democrats moved a long way toward the objection of some of these House Republicans. I thought it was a fair, tough compromise.

The stars and the moon were aligned, and these few folks sadly embarrassed the speaker of the House, embarrassed the president of the United States and set us back, I think, a long way.

WALLACE: Let me just briefly explain what the bill would have done was taken some of the control the Pentagon now has over intelligence agencies that they control and given it to this new director of national intelligence.

Let me ask you, Speaker Hastert said yesterday that he may bring Congress back on December 6th to try again. Why will things be any different?

HARMAN: Well, if the thought is that we will change the bill further, and therefore it will be more palatable to these committee chairs who oppose it, that will unglue all the careful compromises and the blood on the floor and all of the metaphors you can pick that went into this.

And I think you may satisfy them, but then you'll make this national director of intelligence an ineffective office. That isn't the point.

And just one more point, Chris. The compromise that was worked out about making sure that the chain of command between the warfighter, the secretary of defense and the president would not be interfered with was drafted by the counsel to the vice president of the United States.

This is the handwritten language that was presented on Sunday. Everyone, including the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, agreed to it. But yesterday, somehow that wasn't enough.

WALLACE: When we were talking earlier, Senator Roberts, I asked you about chances that this could get turned back and approved in a couple of weeks and you said slim or none.

ROBERTS: Well, I said slim or none, and slim left town.

(LAUGHTER)

I just don't see it as of December 6th. Somehow or other we have to get a coalition to prove and to try to convince people who have very strong differences of opinion, who believe that somehow the warfighter will be endangered in the middle of a war, due to intelligence reform.

I want to point something out. You know, I'm a former Marine. There are no ex-Marines. I am a former Marine, all right? I serve on the Armed Services Committee.

No bill that I have seen, even the one that I introduced that went even farther than this, had anything to do with doing any harm to tactical intelligence in regards to that warfighter in the field.

HARMAN: Right.

ROBERTS: Now, there is a misconception here, and the misconception is this — and the secretary of defense has said it, and I'm not trying to pick on Secretary Rumsfeld, but this is what he said. He said, "The military is the primary consumer of intelligence."

That's wrong. The primary consumer of intelligence is the president of the United States, and then the Congress, and then the military is the majority consumer.

There is no reason, if we do intelligence reform, that these agencies we are talking about, these so-called combat support agencies, will not continue to support the warfighter. Nobody is against that. But the primary consumer is the president of the United States.

HARMAN: That's right.

ROBERTS: And I will tell you, after a WMD report that we issued in the Senate after the House-Senate investigation, after Dr. David Kay and after Charles Duelfer and the 9/11 Report, if somebody doesn't understand that there is a systemic problem in the intelligence community, all 15 agencies, and that we need reform, they're like an ostrich.

And so, consequently, I know that some people care about turf, I know some people obviously care about immigration. I do, too. We can do that at some later point. But this idea that somehow the Pentagon would be hurt by this, that is a canard.

WALLACE: I've got a lot to talk to you about in limited time, so I want to get a brief response from both of you on this.

What are the real-world consequences of what happened in Congress? Is the country endangered by the failure to pass intelligence reform?

ROBERTS: I don't think you can ever say that, if you pass a bill, you can prevent an attack. But you can certainly say that we have systemic problems and challenges — I like to call them challenges — in the intelligence community: a lack of accountability, so on and so forth.

But this latest performance of the Congress indicates we have a big problem in the Congress, too, on how we really take a look at and do our job, in regards to congressional oversight of intelligence.

HARMAN: And let me just add to that. We've had massive intelligence failures. Pat Roberts has it right.

Now we're talking about Iran and the danger of Iran's nuclear potential. Have we got our intelligence right? I think few people around the world have confidence that we do.

This reform would have put a unified command, not a new bureaucracy but a unified command, in charge of all of these different intelligence agencies to make sure that they share information and that they vet their analytic products and that we do a better job.

And that's all we were going to do in Congress. Everyone agreed to it except for a couple of committee chairs, and they unfortunately made the House speaker unable to bring it up.

ROBERTS: You know, just one add-on. And I'm sorry to take this kind of time. But this failure that we found in the Senate report on the WMD, this was not only a failure on the part of American intelligence, it was a failure on the part of every intelligence agency all throughout the world, even the Russians, even the French, even the U.N., even the Brits, everybody.

And so consequently, it was an assumption train. It was groupthink.

HARMAN: That's right.

ROBERTS: And so, what we do to try to reform our intelligence also impacts the world, the world community intelligence, in the middle of a global war against terrorism.

It is global in its reach, in terms of the reform we're trying to achieve.

WALLACE: All right. I want to move on, if we can, because this is a lot to talk about, to the turmoil that's going on inside the CIA right now. We've got high-level resignations, high-level firings of people, daily leaks from an agency that is supposed to be secret.

Senator Roberts, is new Director Porter Goss, is he involved in fixing an agency that is broken and, as you say, has had massive intelligence failures, or is he involved in a heavy-handed purge?

ROBERTS: Well, I don't think it's a heavy-handed purge by any means.

In the first place, I perhaps am prejudiced. I'm a friend of Porter's. So is Jane.

Anybody that didn't expect Porter Goss to go down in the CIA and start to make changes, I just don't know, you know, they must be living somewhere else.

I had a long talk with him. He is very worried about the leaks. He made a statement, and I have the memo right here that some people quoted, and they just put in one line. And he says we do not make policy. We avoid any political involvement, especially partisanship, he says right in here. We provide the intelligence as we see it. Let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.

I think he's just trying to straighten out the CIA as best he can. Now, he could have done it, perhaps, or some other people in the staff, perhaps more deftly. But we have so many leaks over there and so many criticisms; that has to stop.

WALLACE: Congresswoman Harman, let me ask you. I mean, you have said the agency is in freefall.

HARMAN: Yes.

WALLACE: You've talked about the possibility of an implosion. Is it really that bad?

HARMAN: Well, the story should be about Porter Goss's vision. Punishing leakers is just fine. I'm still waiting for us to find the leaker in the administration who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, the undercover agent in connection with Joe Wilson.

WALLACE: Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife.

HARMAN: Absolutely.

Finding and punishing leakers is fine. Finding people who were accountable for the failures leading up to 9/11 is fine.

But the story continues to be about the heavy-handed tactics of staff. I've been called a vicious partisan by a number of folks for saying this.

But what I'm thinking about is the new crop of baby spies, the post-9/11 recruits who were out in the field, whom I just met with two weeks ago all over the Middle East, who are taking risks that they didn't take before and have training that they didn't have before to find those who would cause us harm.

They're undermined by this disarray, let's just call it disarray, in Washington.

And Porter Goss, I think, needs to get more control over the management of his agency, articulate a vision for where we're going, and target his attacks at the few who really are doing a bad job in his agency.

The hard-working men and women in the ranks of the CIA and our intelligence community do a great job, and they need our support and better tools.

WALLACE: But, Congresswoman Harman, hadn't the CIA gotten too political? They allowed a senior analyst on staff to write a book, "Imperial Hubris," that was very critical of the president. There were a number of leaks during the campaign, but I've got to say it sure looked like they were designed to hurt President Bush.

HARMAN: Look, I'm not defending leakers, let me be clear. And I don't know Michael Scheuer, the author of that book, and I really don't understand how it was that he was able to publish that book while he was in the CIA.

But I don't think that's the point. I think the point is: How do we fix our massive intelligence failures?

We had a great idea on the floor of the Senate and the House yesterday, and it went down because a few people dug in and were supported by the secretary of defense in their opposition.

I think the right answer is intelligence reform, a unified command across the agencies.

And then Porter Goss, who was nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and has every right to make changes, articulating a vision of how the CIA once again can speak truth to power and be nonpartisan, which is what he promised.

WALLACE: All right. I want to get into one more subject, Senator Roberts, and that's Iran.

There's been a lot of talk this week that Iran is developing a key element in the development, the production of a nuclear weapon and that they're also working on systems to deliver it.

How solid is the intelligence about Iran stepping up its nuclear program?

ROBERTS: We're trying to confirm it right now in the Senate Intelligence Committee. We're holding hearings. That's about all I can say about it.

We're obviously, you know, very worried about.But this failure that we found in the Senate report on the WMD, this was not only a failure on the part of American intelligence, it was a failure on the part of every intelligence agency all throughout the world, even the Russians, even the French, even the U.N., even the Brits, everybody.

And so consequently, it was an assumption train. It was groupthink.

HARMAN: That's right.

ROBERTS: And so, what we do to try to reform our intelligence also impacts the world, the world community intelligence, in the middle of a global war against terrorism.

It is global in its reach, in terms of the reform we're trying to achieve.

WALLACE: All right. I want to move on, if we can, because this is a lot to talk about, to the turmoil that's going on inside the CIA right now. We've got high-level resignations, high-level firings of people, daily leaks from an agency that is supposed to be secret.

Senator Roberts, is new Director Porter Goss, is he involved in fixing an agency that is broken and, as you say, has had massive intelligence failures, or is he involved in a heavy-handed purge?

ROBERTS: Well, I don't think it's a heavy-handed purge by any means.

In the first place, I perhaps am prejudiced. I'm a friend of Porter's. So is Jane.

Anybody that didn't expect Porter Goss to go down in the CIA and start to make changes, I just don't know, you know, they must be living somewhere else.

I had a long talk with him. He is very worried about the leaks. He made a statement, and I have the memo right here that some people quoted, and they just put in one line. And he says we do not make policy. We avoid any political involvement, especially partisanship, he says right in here. We provide the intelligence as we see it. Let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.

I think he's just trying to straighten out the CIA as best he can. Now, he could have done it, perhaps, or some other people in the staff, perhaps more deftly. But we have so many leaks over there and so many criticisms; that has to stop.

WALLACE: Congresswoman Harman, let me ask you. I mean, you have said the agency is in freefall.

HARMAN: Yes.

WALLACE: You've talked about the possibility of an implosion. Is it really that bad?

HARMAN: Well, the story should be about Porter Goss's vision. Punishing leakers is just fine. I'm still waiting for us to find the leaker in the administration who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, the undercover agent in connection with Joe Wilson.

WALLACE: Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife.

HARMAN: Absolutely.

Finding and punishing leakers is fine. Finding people who were accountable for the failures leading up to 9/11 is fine.

But the story continues to be about the heavy-handed tactics of staff. I've been called a vicious partisan by a number of folks for saying this.

But what I'm thinking about is the new crop of baby spies, the post-9/11 recruits who were out in the field, whom I just met with two weeks ago all over the Middle East, who are taking risks that they didn't take before and have training that they didn't have before to find those who would cause us harm.

They're undermined by this disarray, let's just call it disarray, in Washington.

And Porter Goss, I think, needs to get more control over the management of his agency, articulate a vision for where we're going, and target his attacks at the few who really are doing a bad job in his agency.

The hard-working men and women in the ranks of the CIA and our intelligence community do a great job, and they need our support and better tools.

WALLACE: But, Congresswoman Harman, hadn't the CIA gotten too political? They allowed a senior analyst on staff to write a book, "Imperial Hubris," that was very critical of the president. There were a number of leaks during the campaign, but I've got to say it sure looked like they were designed to hurt President Bush.

HARMAN: Look, I'm not defending leakers, let me be clear. And I don't know Michael Scheuer, the author of that book, and I really don't understand how it was that he was able to publish that book while he was in the CIA.

But I don't think that's the point. I think the point is: How do we fix our massive intelligence failures?

We had a great idea on the floor of the Senate and the House yesterday, and it went down because a few people dug in and were supported by the secretary of defense in their opposition.

I think the right answer is intelligence reform, a unified command across the agencies.

And then Porter Goss, who was nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and has every right to make changes, articulating a vision of how the CIA once again can speak truth to power and be nonpartisan, which is what he promised.

WALLACE: All right. I want to get into one more subject, Senator Roberts, and that's Iran.

There's been a lot of talk this week that Iran is developing a key element in the development, the production of a nuclear weapon and that they're also working on systems to deliver it.

How solid is the intelligence about Iran stepping up its nuclear program?

ROBERTS: We're trying to confirm it right now in the Senate Intelligence Committee. We're holding hearings. That's about all I can say about it.

We're obviously, you know, very worried about it. We're very, you know, worried about their lack of cooperation with the IAEA, the international atomic energy commission, and our allies. We are working with the Germans and the Brits and — who's the other one? — I think Belgium. I can't tell you.

HARMAN: Yes.

WALLACE: One of those countries.

HARMAN: Starts with "F."

ROBERTS: Yes, well, you know, that's the word we can't repeat. But at any rate, and ourselves.

And I know the secretary of state has made some very declarative statements. We are looking into it.

But there is a danger there. And, again, you're going to have to use some kind of diplomatic, unified effort if we possibly can. We're talking about sanctions with the U.N. I wouldn't hold my breath on any action by the U.N.

But, yes, Iran does pose a very serious problem, and we have to really work on it, just as we're working on the situation with North Korea with the six-party talks.

WALLACE: Let me just finish up with you on this, Congresswoman Harman. After all of the intelligence about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction turned out to be wrong, how persuaded are you by what you're hearing from the administration now about this nuclear program in Iran?

HARMAN: Well, I'm a much more sophisticated consumer of intelligence than I used to be.

And I'm glad that Pat Roberts is holding hearings. I hope our House committee will do the same thing.

As I said, I was just in five countries in the Middle East meeting with intelligence officials, ours and theirs. And one thing we all agreed on, which is we don't know enough yet about the extent of the development of nuclear capability in Iran.

We need to know precisely before we frame public policy. That's the whole point of improving our intelligence capability, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

And, you know, we may have seen this movie before. I want to see a new movie, and I want the movie to have real heroes in it, who I think are these new junior recruits out in the field, who are going to get us solid, actionable, accurate information. I want them to have our full support.

WALLACE: Well, we have to close the curtain on this movie.

Congresswoman Harman, Senator Roberts, thank you both so much for joining us. And happy holidays, although I suspect...

HARMAN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

WALLACE: ... this is not going to be the happiest Thanksgiving for either of you. Thank you so much.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

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