This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Nov. 22, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIAN WILSON, GUEST HOST: The decision not to take a vote on the intelligence reform bill was made in part because of the concerns of our next guest. He is Congressman Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Mr. Chairman, welcome.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: Good to be with you, Brian.
WILSON: I must say you’ve been on record for sometime as not liking this bill.
HUNTER: Well, there’s a particular part of this bill that I think could be damaging to our people that are fighting in Fallujah and Mosul (search), and other places right now. And that is that those people that are on the ground, they’re with weapons in a shooting war and are dependent on this information flowing out of satellites. And those satellites today are the same as the cavalry was in the old days in terms of being the eyes and the ears of the military. And we have a very close, working relationship between the satellites and the people who operate the satellites and the ground.
And the important preservation part of this that I was trying to ensure that we had in the bill -- in the final bill was that we would maintain that chain of command between the secretary of defense and his war fighters and the people who run these big satellite agencies. Those are the combat support agencies here. The Senate wanted to pull out that chain of command provision that was critical to keeping that lifeline between war fighters and the satellites. And they seem to think it’s OK to have a bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. injected in between the war fighters and their intelligence.
WILSON: You’re talking about the national intelligence director (search)? The so-called NID that everyone is talking about?
HUNTER: And his bureaucracy. And it would be considerable. So you’re not going have this quick response, which we have right now in Fallujah, in Mosul and other places. If we need information, we get it immediately. And you’re not going have the close, tight knit working relationship.
WILSON: Are you concerned that the NID would slow down the flow of information to the troops on the front line?
HUNTER: Well, by taking the secretary of defense out of the loop, you’re not going have the close response and the fast response that we’ve had in the past. And you know, the interesting thing about this, Brian? What we have now is working. Even the 9/11 Commissioners will agree that the operational relationship between the intel apparatus and the war fighters is good.
So we’ve gone through this 9/11 report that very strongly documents how the bad guys came to the country. How you had guys who said I want to be able to take the plane off and not land it. How the FBI and CIA fumbled the football in-between the scenes. And so the result of this is in part that we’re going to reach over 8,000 miles away into Iraq, where things are working well.
WILSON: And interfere with the process.
HUNTER: And we’re going interfere with that process.
WILSON: Let me ask you this though, because a lot of people said no. What is going on here is that the Pentagon (search) folks and the old bulls in the House -- and I hope you don’t take offense at that term. But you are a guy that’s been around for a while; don’t want to change the status quo. And they don’t want the Pentagon, the area that you oversee in Congress, to lose control over the intelligence gathering process.
HUNTER: Well, listen. My concern is a lot more personal than that. My concern is for the men and women who are fighting for our country.
WILSON: Your son.
HUNTER: Including my son who has have been to Iraq twice. His last words to me were, "Don’t give this one up for us, Dad." And you know, I called Secretary Rumsfeld in the conference. And I said, Mr. Secretary, we need you to weigh into the conference. And he would have had a considerable impact obviously. And he said I’m a team player, I can’t do that. And I’m on the president’s team and I’m not engaging.
WILSON: Let me stop you there. Was there a wink and a nod there saying Congressman Hunter, I’m with you 100 percent personally, I just can’t be with you on the record?
HUNTER: As a matter of fact, the secretary said I’m leaving on a trip. And he said this is one that you’re going have to be able to fight out without me.
WILSON: He’s wasn’t upset that you fought it though, was he?
HUNTER: Well, he’s obviously seeing my position and I’m sure that he appreciates that. And the president -- the secretary in questions before the committee -- when he’s before the committee, it’s become very clear to the conference that he is not in support of some of the thing the Senate wanted to do.
I then called up the chairman of the Joint Chiefs late at night in the conference. And I said you have a statutory duty, an obligation that to answer, give your personal view on these -- on these important security matters. And that view, that requirement is one when you see these Joint Chiefs confirmed by the Senate the senators always asked them, will you give your unvarnished opinion? Well, he said I do and he gave his unvarnished opinion in a letter that he sent over to the conferees, saying the House position that we had was the one that worked best for the troops.
And so recently you had the Marines, the Air Force, the Army and the Navy following strongly that position of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
WILSON: Let me try to get one more question in here. They had the votes. The speaker had the votes by all accounts to pass this thing. But they chose not do it because they didn’t want to look as if there were Republicans against it. Why not -- if the most important thing...
HUNTER: I don’t think it’s the only reason
WILSON: Why not if the most important thing is getting the bill passed and the president wanted it, why didn’t they go forward with it?
HUNTER: For this reason, Denny Hastert (search) is very concerned about intelligence and security. And when we’re in a shooting war and you’ve got your own military leadership saying they are concerned that this bill will not be good for the troops, you’re going have people who care about the men and women in uniform. That means lots of representatives, mostly Republican but a lot of Democrats too, and our leadership saying let’s hold on. Let’s take another look at this thing. So if the Senate comes across the finish line on chain of command and preserves this tight link between the combat troops and the satellites and the people that run them and the other intel platforms, we can get this thing done.
WILSON: And you think that will happen in early December?
HUNTER: It could happen. But it’s going to depend on the Senate. The Senate could make an agreement in five days or five months. Depends on the Senate.
WILSON: Duncan Hunter, thanks for coming. Greatly appreciate you being here to give your side of the story.
HUNTER: Good to be here.
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