All-Star Panel: How will US seek justice for James Foley killing?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 21, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We'll open a criminal investigation.  And those who would perpetrate such acts must need to understand something.  This Justice Department, this Department of Defense, this nation, we have long memories. And our reach is very wide. We will not forget what happened, and people will be held accountable one way or the other.


CHRIS WALLACE, GUEST HOST: Attorney General Holder today discussing all the ways the administration will try to bring the people behind the execution of American journalist James Foley to justice.

Let's bring in our panel, Juan Williams from the The Hill, A.B. Stoddard also with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

So some people criticize Holder for saying today that it's going to be a criminal investigation of the specific executioner and all the people involved with the killing of James Foley. But he did mention not only justice, also the Pentagon, as you just heard him say we'll try to get them one way or the other. So Juan, do you think the criticism of Holder and the talk of a criminal investigation is fair or not?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE HILL": Not fair. I think it's one-sided. Clearly you have to have some kind of strategy that not only entails the Justice Department pursuing criminal investigation -- and remember, anytime an American citizen overseas is the victim of such a crime, any crime, the FBI gets involved. That's the law. That's the way the process works.

So having Holder assert that he is interested, and, of course, ask people to remember what happened with the Benghazi investigation, what's happened in previous cases where it's taken time but ultimately the United States has reached across and pulled those people back into the criminal justice system and has a terrific record of convictions.

But the other part of it, and of course, he doesn't speak to this, is that the Pentagon, Chuck Hagel, the secretary of defense, today saying they are going after ISIS very aggressively.

WALLACE: That's the next thing I want to talk about, because the big question is, what do we do about ISIS? And this is what Defense Secretary Hagel said today at the Pentagon.


CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The president, the chairman, and I are all very clear-eyed about the challenges ahead. We're pursuing a long- term strategy against ISIL because ISIL clearly poses a long-term threat.


WALLACE: And A.B., for all the talk about the long-term threat, Hagel also made it clear that the U.S. mission is to assist the Iraqis as they confront ISIL, or ISIS.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I thought Secretary Hagel tried to keep to the script on mission creep, escalation, building a coalition, and the U.S. backing a coalition. I did think that General Dempsey went a bit further about the fact that while ISIS can be contained, he said it will eventually have to be defeated. And he said that in the long term the only way to do that is to get at ISIS in Syria. They were very strong terms.

In the end, even Secretary Hagel was quite unequivocal that we're in for the duration with this group because it is the most sophisticated, most well-funded, and it's had such ease and success attracting and radicalizing westerners that we are going to be girding for a very long fight. They did not -- though they tried to hem and haw on what that means, and whether or not it would lead to ground forces, is one thing. I think they had to stick to their talking points, but they made very clear that we are back in a 9/11 state of emergency even though they didn't use that exact phrase.

WALLACE: Charles, do you agree? Do you think they did make that claim?  And how far do you think we should go? Should President Obama declare war on ISIS the way we declared war on Al Qaeda?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, everybody is always -- when you want to advocate inaction, you say, what do you want to do, declare war, boots on the ground, a new Iraq war? No, of course not.  Those are red herrings and distractions. There's no reason why we cannot provide the air cover for the boots already on the ground, meaning the Peshmerga, the Kurds, and the special forces of Iraq who perform rather well in retaking the Mosul dam. So this I think is a red herring about American troops on the ground.

We have air power, and these people, ISIS, it's heavily overextended, and it's operating in desert and open fields. You can see the target. This is a perfect scenario for an air war against them. The problem here is that it is not a post-9/11 declaration. It's pre-9/11.

What we decided as a country after 9/11 is that for 20 years we had treated terrorism as a law enforcement problem. Usama bin Laden was offered to us by Sudan in the late '90s, and the Clinton administration said we can't take him. We don't have enough evidence to indict him. And he ended up in Afghanistan, and we know what happened.

The attack on the Cole the year before 9/11, an American warship, that's an act of war. What was the response? We sent the FBI to Yemen. We should not have the attorney general talking about this. This isn't about capturing the Brit who was holding the knife. It's about a war on these people which doesn't mean boots on the ground. It means supporting the existing troops on the ground who are doing a reasonably good job.

WALLACE: We've got less than two minutes left and I want to ask you about one other controversy that came up today. And we were here on the air last night when the whole story of the secret failed rescue mission broke. At that time you suggested, and I think a lot of people thought, well, this is just the administration in political damage control trying to show we were trying to do something before this poor fellow, James Foley, was so brutally killed. Today the administration said there were a lot of news organizations sniffing around, they were about to report the story, we decided to do it to put it out our way. Do you buy that?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, even if that is true, and I'm not saying it wasn't, what the administration should have done to protect the sources who were behind the first rescue operation, and to protect the hostages in the future so there's less information out there, would have been to try to get the news organizations, one at a time, not to go with the story. That happens all the time. The "Washington Post" and the "Times" have withheld information. If it would help -- would hurt national security. So if that excuse is a valid one, I want to see how hard the administration tried to suppress this story that ended up having, or at least looked at it if it had a positive intent of making them look good for at least trying a rescue operation.

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