Reaction to News of Daniel Pearl's Death

This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, February 21, 2002 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.

TONY SNOW, GUEST HOST: Joining us now from a variety of places, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio. They're all Fox News contributors.

Mara, I'll begin with you. We've got the reported death now of Daniel Pearl, and everyone is trying to figure out what the significance of it all is. So, what do we make of it?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I can tell you as a journalist, it's a horrible day. And I think as time went on, people who understand these kinds of things said, gee, the chances are less and less that he's alive. But I think until today, every single journalist in America, and certainly probably a lot of citizens, were just hoping against hope that he was alive. And it's just — it sounds like he's not. It sounds like they have a videotape showing his death, or him dead. And it's just awful. And I don't know what else to say about it, except for I think everyone in the news business is grieving for him.

SNOW: Mort, this also is one of those risks that foreign correspondents often take when they go into a place of war. This happens fairly frequently, but not that often to American reporters, correct?

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Yes. I guess the number of Americans killed has been rather low, even in the Afghanistan war, and generally, by just people extorting money or getting out of control and stuff like that. This was a planned, apparently, planned operation, in which it may have been that he was killed because he's Jewish. That has been raised. And it may have been that he was killed because the Islamic terrorists who apparently kidnapped him panicked when their leader got caught. But in any event, it's not only sad, it's monstrous, on their part. And what it should lead to is an utter crackdown on the people who perpetrated it.

SNOW: It's probably worth noting that we have a lot more theories at this point than we do facts. The other thing is, they may have wanted to send a signal to anybody chasing after the Richard Reid case, back off.

LIASSON: Well, and I also think — they said in some of their e- mails, that they didn't want American journalists in Pakistan. It sounded like they went out to kill an American. The demands were unclear. There certainly were never any negotiations. They were never repeated. The e-mails were confusing. And it sounded like they certainly achieved one of their goals, which is one more dead American.

SNOW: Now, Mort, you mentioned the likelihood of further crackdowns by the government of Pervez Musharraf. What are the sort of things that the United States' government, you think might be asking the Pakistani government to do right now?

KONDRACKE: I would think give all the intelligence that they've got. Help the United States — allow the United States to help strategize on what to do. Identify the perpetrators and arrest them all. And if some of them die in the process, too bad.

SNOW: OK, Fred Barnes, I think you've been able to hear most of this conversation so far. So I want to ask you: after the Daniel Pearl death — and we're making an assumption here, but it seems that government agencies and The Wall Street Journal are probably authoritative enough for our purposes — the United States, working with Pakistan, what are the next steps?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think Mort was right about it. We need to really push them to have a criminal investigation like they've never done before. I mean, this was not only a serious attack on the United States and on American reporters, but an attack on General Musharraf and his government and the policies of his government in Pakistan. They ought to take this as a real threat to them.

And I think Americans and myself, personally, and I'm sure, the Bush administration, want to see very swift action here. Because they don't seem to — I don't know exactly what the Pakistani government did during the time when Daniel Pearl was captured, but they certainly didn't free him and they certainly didn't isolate where the captors were. I think they have some better work they need to perform.

SNOW: OK, Fred, assuming that we're going to urge Pervez Musharraf to go harder after terrorists and provocateurs in his midst, do we also have to make a corresponding pledge to watch out for his back?

BARNES: Of course we do. And I think that pledge is already there. Look, Musharraf has already thrown in with the U.S. There's no turning back for him. And he's going to benefit from it. His government is going to get more money. It's going to get the defense support of the United States, without any actual alliance. So he has a lot to gain, but he has a lot — he'll have to give a lot. And right now the place to do it is find out the killers of Daniel Pearl.

SNOW: All right, Fred, thanks. We're going to take a break. The panel will be back on the other side, though. We're going to talk about President Bush. He pushes for religious freedom, but China's president resists. That topic is next.

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