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'Special Report' Panel on Blackwater USA

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from October 2, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HENRY WAXMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: There are also serious questions about Blackwater's performance. The September 16 shooting that killed at least 11 Iraqis is just the latest in a series of troubling Blackwater incidents.

REP. CHRIS SHAYS, R-CONN.: Did you have any one wounded or killed in 2004?

ERIK PRINCE, BLACKWATER FOUNDER, CEO: No, sir.

SHAYS: Did you have anybody wounded or killed in 2005?

PRINCE: No, sir.

SHAYS: These are the people you're trying to protect. Did you have anyone killed or wounded in 2006?

PRINCE: People that we are protecting?

SHAYS: Yes.

PRINCE: No.

SHAYS: Did you have anyone who was wounded or killed in 2007 that you were to protect?

PRINCE: No, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: And so it went today in that hearing before the Waxman Committee, named after the redoubtable chairman.

Some thoughts on this hearing on the issue of Blackwater from Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor for Roll Call, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, all FOX News contributors.

What about this, Mort? There was a shooting incident that was not the subject of this hearing because it was under FBI investigation involving Blackwater, [which has been] accused by the Iraqi government of getting trigger-happy and killing a bunch of civilians.

Blackwater immediately becomes the target of an investigation by Waxman and the target of many criticisms on the left. What about this?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: It is Government Reform and Oversight, by the way.

I have seen a number of reports saying that U.S. military officials in Iraq regard these people as unaccountable and trigger-happy. Now, whether that -- there are abundant investigations of this. The State Department is running one with the FBI's assistance, there's another one--

HUME: By the way, Blackwater is there under contract with the State Department. And one of their jobs is to protect visiting dignitaries.

KONDRACKE: Including members of congress.

HUME: And their record of protecting is--

KONDRACKE: Perfect so far. And that job they do very well. The problem is, are they trigger-happy? And that is what is under investigation.

And another problem is that it is not clear what their legal accountability is. Iraqi law does not cover them. The Uniform Code of Military Justice doesn't cover them as it does regular U.S. military, and Congress is only getting around right now to establishing that U.S. law applies to them if they do something wrong, like shooting -- this drunken guard shot the bodyguard of the Vice President of Iraq, and was then spirited out of the country.

Now, he has to be [held] accountable to someone, but who?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think Mort put his finger on the problems here.

Their primary job of protecting people they do very well, but if the United States is going to have protracted occupations of countries and rely on these private contractors, which are in a gray area in terms that they are not military and they do not answer to the same laws, either they have to do it themselves and have more military contractors doing this kind of job -- military service people doing this job, or they have to clarify the role of these guys and what they're accountable to.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Of course you want them to be accountable, and you want laws that will govern how these people are prosecuted if something goes wrong.

But what is going on here is critics of the war on [the] left who are looking for another scandal. This is a search for a scandal, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, or something. It comes out of this incident in which 11 Iraqis were killed, but Waxman holds a hearing and says he won't even discuss this because it is under investigation.

LIASSON: Well, he was asked not to.

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, he was asked, and yet he still holds a hearing.

So what are the hearings about? Statistics. What we know is one statistic--everybody is protected, safe, and nobody has been lost or killed. Statistics -- one-and-a-half shooting incidents a week on average. This is in a country where the average runs between 500 a week and 1,000 a week of violent incidents. That is not exactly trigger-happy.

Over 80 percent of the incidents, it is alleged, involve Blackwater shooting first. Well, do you want the bad guys to shoot first and kill our people?

And what is the right number here? Sitting in Washington, we decree that it ought to be 50 percent or 60 percent? It is absurd. What is going on is a search for some kind of scandal in which, as of yet, has not been discovered.

HUME: Isn't there something a bit repellent, too, Mort, about these members of Congress up in arms about this organization, which has lost 32 of its own in Iraq, while giving 100 percent effective protection to a lot of dignitaries, including members of Congress themselves, and for everybody in a war zone to be worrying and haggling over whether the rules of accountability are appropriate for effective guards?

KONDRACKE: I think it is entirely legitimate when the Iraqi government, Nouri al-Maliki in the lead, is complaining about these people and alleging that they're trigger-happy to find out whether it is true and establish some sense of accountability. There is no question--

HUME: Aren't they accountable to the State Department for whom they have a contract?

KONDRACKE: Well, if a drunken guard shoots--

HUME: The guy got fired, he came out of the country, and isn't he still under investigation?

KONDRACKE: He is under investigation, but that was last Christmas, and so far we do not know whose law applies.

LIASSON: The question is legitimate. These are guys who were paid a lot more than the military. They do similar work.

HUME: But wait a minute -- that takes into account the cost of one soldier, but one soldier is backed up by another dozen.

LIASSON: That is true, and soldiers have pensions, and it is not completely parallel. But the point is why do [we] rely heavily on these private people?

KRAUTHAMMER: Because we don't have enough troops.

LIASSON: We don't have enough troops, that is exactly right. If we had enough we would not need to rely on these guys.

LIASSON: But it is not just the numbers of troops. These are highly specialized, essentially retired, in a sense the way that in civilian life you hire a consultant or somebody who has been in the business who knows it and who is expert and doesn't have to [be] trained all over again.

Here you are hiring people who already have been trained, are experienced, and are willing to go out and do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

You will always have drunken sailors or soldiers [or] contractors who will shoot someone. Just a few years ago we had a soldier in Kuwait who rolled a grenade into the tent of his fellow soldiers. That is not discrediting of the American military, and the one incident of the guy who shot the Iraqi is not discrediting of private contractors.

KONDRACKE: I am not discrediting the private contractors, I am saying that they are not accountable, and when they do something wrong, there needs to be something [resembling a]legal regime that governs them.

HUME: I bet that guy that was up there testifying today felt like he was pretty accountable.

When we come back we will talk about the size of Hillary Clinton's campaign haul and the timing of its announcement. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: Let's take a look at some numbers here. This is from the third quarter, Democratic fundraising. Hillary Clinton -- $22 million, Barack Obama -- $19 million.

Until now, until this day -- you can see the others are well back -- until this day Barack Obama had been having win-over-win over Hillary Clinton, not in any of the polls, but in the fundraising department. Well, not this quarter.

In fact, the Clinton people were so elated that they sent out a new campaign e-mail to supporters saying "Our fundraising is through the roof. Hillary wanted you to be the first to know that this was our best quarter yet. More than 100,000 new donors, a total of $27 million raised, substantially more than any other candidate in the race."

That is true. So what does this mean, Mara? Nobody has voted yet, we are casting about four indicators. Last night we were still thinking that Barack Obama, while trailing everywhere, perhaps, was still ahead in the money department. What about it?

LIASSON: He is ahead in overall money raised, and he didn't start with a $20 million head start as she did, she transferred the money--

HUME: I know, but this quarter?

LIASSON: This quarter [is], clearly, [an] absolute win for Senator Clinton. And it comes on the heels of a lot of demonstrations of her dominance of the field.

Now, her campaign has been working very hard to create an aura of inevitability about her nomination. The fact is she has been ahead in the polls, her lead has been growing in states like New Hampshire, and Barack Obama, even though he generates tremendous crowds and still raises a lot of money -- $19 million for the primary is still only $3 million behind her, no slouch there -- has not been able to close the gap.

And I think she announced this today when he was giving what was called a major policy address.

HUME: Do you think they have been sitting on these numbers all week and then held them until the day --

LIASSON: She could have announced them yesterday, there was nothing stopping them. But I think the Clinton campaign has really not made a mistake. And Obama, just by the very nature of his rookieness, has made the rookie mistakes.

I don't think this means she has it sewed up. There are a lot of things that could still happen. Iowa -- there are polls that show him ahead of her. But this is a clear win for her.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Every previous quarter when I have called up people in the Clinton campaign to say "Obama beat you," they say, "listen, defeat only makes Hillary work harder. She loves competition". And I said "yeah, yeah, yeah."

This time she really did turn it on and insist that her people raise money.

HUME: Did she turn it on, or is it that the perception [that] is growing, [is] that Obama probably cannot make it and therefore a better place to put your money is on her?

KONDRACKE: Well, in fact, some of this gain, I am told by the Clinton people, is from Edwards, Dodd, and Biden donors who are covering their bets now, thinking that those people are going to fade, and that now they want to give money and buy their way into the good graces of the next nominee.

Also, she stepped up her small daughter operation. Obama has been leading in that department, [and] he is still leading in terms of the number of total donors. But her direct mail and her internet operation and small collections, and stuff like that, has picked up because she insisted that it do so.

KRAUTHAMMER: On the question of the timing of the release of this information by the Clinton people, as to whether it could have been a coincidence that it was announced minutes before the major Obama speech on foreign affairs -- nothing in the Clinton campaign is accidental.

That was not accidental, that was a hardball, and they're very good at it.

And I do not know how to read into these numbers -- if you beat somebody by $3 million if that means you are a juggernaut -- but when you look at his reaction, his speech he gave on foreign affairs today, he was tough, and he knows he has to be tough on her or he is --

HUME: Presumably that was crafted even before this announcement was dropped on him.

KRAUTHAMMER: It is going to be a drubbing unless he gets -- and his point of attack is on the war because it gives him two openings -- on substance among the primary voters, [and] among Democrats, that is a real issue. He says, at least, in the eyes of Democrats on the right side, she was wrong.

But also he is using it as a question of character. He wants to argue that if she is unreliable and slippery on this against the war and then pretends she wasn't, and now is for the war, [but] then pretends otherwise, and now is against it, how can you rely on her on other issues?

And it is the flipside of her discipline. Disciplined means you're controlled, your real emotions, sentiments, and ideology are concealed, and that is his attack on her.

He also added, incidentally, that he would remove all combat troops from Iraq in 16 months, which is a major deal.

HUME: That is not all troops, that is just all combat troops.

KRAUTHAMMER: Combat troops. I think he thinks in the debate he was asked about all troops, and he said no I will not commit to a withdrawal at the end of the first term, and that probably hurt him. I think he is going to emphasize on combat troops. He is going to give a deadline, and Hillary is not.

KONDRACKE: What struck me in that speech as a mistake was that he wants to make the Director of National Intelligence a term appointment like the Federal Reserve Chairman, not subject to the president's hiring and firing.

This is to deprive the president of choosing somebody he wants in his place or who was doing a good job or bad job. I do not think that is a good idea.

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