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Special Report

Fears for Future of Libya?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 23, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Ensuring that the governing forces in Libya hav e full command and control of any WMD or any security assets that the state might have had and are prepared to meet international obligations.

REP. MIKE ROGERS, R - MI, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We know they experiment with the sarin gas. We don't have that fully accounted for. And we know that they have this very high grade mustard gas that is still available and would be incredibly dangerous in the hands of al Qaeda or others, or rogue elements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The administration and the House Intelligence Committee chairman talking about possible weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons at the hands of Muammar Qaddafi believed to have been in Libya at one point and they don't know if they're under control currently. In fact, they doubt that they are. But there are question marks tonight as the hunt for Qaddafi continues and the fighting continues in Tripoli. We're back with the panel. How big a concern, Chris, and the question marks about who the rebels are and how this Transitional National Council (TNC) will deal with all of this in the next, let's say, 48 hours if they take over?

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS POLITICS EDITOR DIGITAL: Right, there's the two troublesome scenarios. Troublesome scenario one is that you end up slipping into something like they have in Egypt now where the Islamists become ascendant and the stability slips further in the region. More of this Arab fall instead of the Arab spring. So that is like a long-term structural concern because we don't know about the rebels and their ability to unite this disparate country.

The larger concern though is that in the southern part of Libya, it is a lawless zone. This is a place where al Qaeda and the Maghreb operates freely, this is a place that could come to resemble Somalia, could come to resemble Yemen, these other places where terrorists operate freely. And we should remember that these guys in that branch of al Qaeda recently were uncovered trying to poison massive drinking water reservoirs in Europe and Spain. These are serious bad chappies, and there is a possibility now that there will be no controlling legal authority to deal with this part of that country.

BAIER: David, the administration at one point months ago said -- was asked about the WMD possibility, or the chemical weapon, mustard gas possibilities. And the answer came that it was largely believed it had been destroyed. And now we hear from Intelligence officials and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, even the administration saying yes, we have concerns about some of these stockpiles that we don't know about or we don't know if they are under control. I wonder what happened.

DAVID DRUCKER, "ROLL CALL": Well, ya know this is the peril of dealing with the Middle East. And I think that in Washington, we have a habit of jumping the gun and saying oh, something turned out well. Whatever our policy was must have been great. And the truth is particularly in that part of the world I don't yet know that the president's sort of not disengagement if you will but sort of sloughing off and not being very proactive on the outside in leading and pushing is going to pay dividends in that part of the world.

As Chris said, we have seen in Egypt what can happen after a revolution. We don't know what is going to happen in Libya going forward, and we don't actually know what's going on inside of that country. And so I think that, first of all, any administration would be in a tough spot right now. But I think that the Obama administration is in a particularly tough spot because they are claiming victory in a sense for their walk softly policy. And in a sense we don't know that it's going to work out. And if it doesn't work out it can really come back to bite him as a weak leader who didn't see things the way he should have.

BAIER: Although the White House has been very cautious in their statements. The president's been cautious to not claim victory of his policy, in fact, because it is still going on. And Qaddafi technically is still in power.

Steve, the fighting is continuing. And, you know, people sitting at home may say, how do we know the intelligence was right at the beginning that they had this stuff? Iraq, it didn't turn out that WMD was there in big numbers as suspected or at all for the military who were searching for it. So ya know, people listen to this intelligence and say how are we supposed to believe this now.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, it's a fair question, I think the fact that the administration had previously downplayed the suggestion that there might be these remaining stockpiles will lead people, particularly in the president's own party, to ask is this some sort of -- are they inflating these claims so that as sort of a lead up to a broader U.S. role there. I don't think they are. I mean, I think if you talk to Mike Rogers, you talk to other people --

BAIER: Who have access to intelligence...

HAYES: -- have access to intelligence -- the way that the story has changed here suggests to me, and this is not based on any additional reporting I've done, but it suggests to me, that we have new intelligence. And that stands to reason. We have a good number of intelligence operatives on the ground in Libya right now, who presumably are collecting exactly this kind of intelligence.

BAIER: Because when we say no U.S. boots on the ground we are not saying that, there's no covert action U.S. on the ground.

HAYES: Loafers. Right. These guys may actually be wearing boots, but we're not talking about, you know, U.S. army soldiers on the ground.

BAIER: Right.

HAYES: But I think you are right about the president's statement the other day was pretty reserved. I mean, I haven't agreed with the way that they've conducted this operation, although I thought it was probably a good idea to do something, in the initial status. But I thought his statement the other day, was pretty reserved. He was trying to avoid getting out in front of something and talked instead about a tipping point. And I still think we are at a tipping point.

BAIER: And this Transitional National Counsel, we've endorsed this as the next government of post-Qaddafi, as have countries around the world. They are unfreezing some of Qaddafi's assets, more than $35 billion here in the U.S. that will go to this TNC. Is there optimism about this group?

STIREWALT: No. I mean, 140 tribes, three very disparate regions of this country. We've got a former government professor from the University of Pittsburgh who is a Libyan ex-pat, returned home who is a central figure in this, they've killed off a couple of their generals. It's a wild and woolly bunch. And we have no idea really what is going to happen.

BAIER: It's not over yet. We will follow it day-to-day. As you saw Steve Harrigan crouching there in Tripoli tonight.

That's it for the panel. But stay tuned for an unpleasant moment for one of man's best friends.

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