A 9/11 Family Member on NSA Surveillance and the Patriot Act
This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," January 30, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: When the details of the president's secret program for monitoring terrorist communications was leaked late last year, his critics predictability went into overdrive. But how do those who have actually lost loved ones to terrorism feel about the controversy?
Joining us now is Debra Burlingame. She lost her brother, American Airlines pilot Chick Burlingame, when Flight Number 77 crashed into the Pentagon on September the 11th, 2001.
Welcome back to the program. Thanks for being with us.
DEBRA BURLINGAME, SISTER OF 9/11 PILOT: Hi.
HANNITY: I'm very sorry that this happened to your brother. By all accounts, you were telling us before air you had the digital cockpit recordings and the data that showed they fought for six minutes in that cockpit, or thereabouts?
BURLINGAME: Yes. They recovered the flight data recorder on Flight 77. And we could see there was a violent episode that lasted six minutes, where the plane was pitching and rolling. And my brother told one of my other brothers once that pilots — it was sort of ridiculous to screen them at the airport because he said, quote, "I'm flying a missile essentially, an airplane full of 60,000 pounds of jet fuel."
BURLINGAME: And so he would never give his plane over to a bunch of Arab men, agitated Arab men what can't speak English, you know, breaking into his cockpits with knives. He would have fought very, very hard.
HANNITY: Yes, it's sad. This never should have happened.
HANNITY: I want to applaud you. You wrote a great piece in The Wall Street Journal today.
BURLINGAME: Thank you.
HANNITY: And among things, you wrote, "It's fairly shocking that there's anyone in Washington who could politicize the Patriot Act." You talk later in the piece, how they, in an exclusive story, in 2004, how they recounted how the people that hijacked your brother's plane received more than a dozen calls from an Al Qaeda switchboard inside Yemen.
Tie this all together with the NSA program, and the Patriot Act, and why you wrote this very hard-hitting piece and what you wanted to say.
BURLINGAME: Well, yes. NBC reported in 2004 there was a switchboard. It was called a super-cell in Yemen. NSA was monitoring it. There were some dozen calls to a guy named Khalid. They didn't pick it up because they knew it was going to a number in the United States and that was, quote, "domestic spying," or surveillance. That was not allowed.
They now though that that was Khalid Almihdhar, one of the San Diego terrorists.
And the point is people don't understand. They talk about you can go get a FISA warrant. FISA warrants are anywhere from 75 to 100 pages thick. This is the old days of spying on embassies, stationary targets, analog phones. This isn't cell phones, and the Internet, and throw-away phones. And you can't drop an intercept like that.
Even the so-called emergency intercept, the 72-hour bypass, requires vetting by the NSA analysts, the NSA lawyers, and a sign-off by the attorney general.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Debra, we only have a second here, but first of all, I want to echo what Sean said about your loss and how horrible that is. And I guess one of the great things about our country is we can argue about what the best policies are.
COLMES: And a lot of even conservatives don't feel the Patriot Act is the right way to go, that it wouldn't have prevented what happened, the horrible tragedy you suffered.
The 9/11 commission went through a list of things, including the people you mentioned, Mindahar and Hasmi (ph), that not watch listing them, not sharing information linking them to the Cole attack, and a whole number of other things, not about the NSA, not about eavesdropping, which would have prevented it, not the Patriot Act, but specific things that the 9/11 Commission said that we could have done, having nothing to do with additional legislation or eavesdropping on Americans.
BURLINGAME: Well, that's kind of not true, Alan, because a lot of the things you're describing there are wrapped up in something called the wall.
COLMES: That's what the commission said.
BURLINGAME: This was something that separated intelligence from the criminal division.
BURLINGAME: And some of those things that you're describing went wrong because of this wall, and the Patriot Act corrected that wall.
COLMES: You say in your piece that the wall was certified in 1995 by Jamie Gorelick. It actually started with Bush 41 and with Reagan. And all she did was recertify it.
Not only that, but John Ashcroft recertified the very same things Jamie Gorelick did.
COLMES: And the 9/11 Commission was very specific about this, and they actually mentioned that in their report.
BURLINGAME: Actually, the law you're talking about, FISA, was enacted in 1978. And there were provisions, civil liberties provisions, put in there to protect.
COLMES: I'm talking about the wall between the agencies.
BURLINGAME: No, I'm talking about the civil liberties provisions. They were there. In 1995, the deputy attorney general, Ms. Gorelick, created guidelines which made the wall higher. And, in fact, the 2002 court of review said that was ridiculous to...
COLMES: The 9/11 Commission said it wasn't higher under Gorelick. That's what...
HANNITY: All right...
BURLINGAME: Well, the 9/11 Commission — she was on that commission. And some say she shouldn't have been there. But the fact is, the court of review, which is the definitive — the highest court that's looked at this — differs from what you've said, Alan.
HANNITY: To tell you, that data shows what a brave man your brother was. And we're very sorry about your loss, and we're very proud of what you've written here. It's terrific. Thank you. All the best to you and your family.
BURLINGAME: Thanks, Sean.
HANNITY: Thank you very much.
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