This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from June 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE ROGERS, (R-MI) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's already in the field. I have witnessed it myself, talked to the people on the ground. It's obviously there. We have talked to the FBI. They said yes, we're trying to rule this out. I don't think it's, as I said, well-thought through. We think this is a DOJ initiative. But it hasn't been well-advertised, it hasn't been well- talked about. And, certainly, I'm not sure it was all that well coordinated amongst all the agencies.
GIBBS: I have no reason to disbelieve a member of Congress, but I don't know any of the circumstances that are involved around it.
QUESTION: Would it come as a surprise at the White House if that of what was happening?
GIBBS: It's not a surprise to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: What are they talking about? Senior House Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers from Michigan — he is also a former special agent for the FBI — just returned from Afghanistan, and said that suspected terrorists at the detainee facility in Bagram were being read their Miranda rights by FBI agents there. Let's bring in our panel on this, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the "Weekly Standard," Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of the "Washington Times." Steve, you broke this story on the "Weekly Standard." I should point out the DOJ released a statement, Department of Justice, saying there has been no policy change nor blanket instruction issued for FBI agents to Mirandize detainees overseas. While there have been specific cases where FBI agents have Mirandized suspects overseas at both Bagram and other institutions or situations in order to preserve the quality of evidence obtained, there has been no overall policy change with respect to detainees." What about all of this?
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, it's interesting that back in the campaign, if you remember, this was a punch line for Republicans. Barack Obama would like to read detainees their Miranda rights. And now we find out that this is, in fact, happening.
There are reports that this was happening on specific bases as going back early as July, 2008. But what Mike Rogers seems to be saying is that this is happening on a more consistent basis, and that the FBI and Justice Department don't want to talk about it.
They are not eager to have this become a public issue, because I think, largely, the American public is not going to be in agreement that detainees, especially detainees overseas, should be read Miranda rights — you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to a lawyer. The government will provide one if you can't afford one, what have you.
So what I think we're seeing now is confusion, as Mike Rogers says. Nobody knows what is going on. The CIA apparently did not know how often it was happening or that it was happening at all. Really very few people know a lot of the details of this. Mike Rogers is somebody who seems to.
BAIER: Military commanders say they did not know about it either, telling our Jennifer Griffin. Do you believe that is what is happening, at least that's what Mike Rogers is saying?
HAYES: I don't think there is any question that it's happening, and the Justice Department's statement confirms that it is actually happening. They are saying that it is happening and has happened. They are saying that there is not a blanket policy.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: This comes against the backdrop of the administration's kind of continuing efforts to figure out what its policy is going to be to detainees, whether you capture them on the battlefield, where you put them, can you put them in indefinite detention, how are you going to try them?
People who are captured in Afghanistan, I can't imagine that they would be treated just like some criminal that you pick up on the street of an American city. They will not be provided a lawyer. They will be provided some kind of a military lawyer, but it's not the same thing.
I just think that the administration has opened up a can of worms which it has to sort out, and it says it will over the course of the rest of the year, as to how it's going to handle these people, try them, and detain them.
BAIER: Let's cut to the chase on the problems that this possibly opens up. If you read a detainee his or her rights in Bagram, Afghanistan, you have to provide an attorney.
JEFF BIRNBAUM, MANAGING EDITOR DIGITAL, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Which means that the detainee is going to shut up, which is the exact opposite of what you want from a detainee. You need information that can be acted upon and often acted upon quickly.
This is all a part of an effort, I think, to try to remove from the CIA a lot of this interrogation responsibility, which was given the CIA by the Bush administration right after 9/11. And now it's much more of this responsibility is going to the FBI, and in this handoff, I believe a lot of this confusion is being caused, and it is a real problem.
It may not be a problem right at the moment, but at a time, if there is another major terrorist attack, if we are getting into the habit of giving Mirandizing people that we suspect as being deadly terrorists, we are shackling ourselves, preventing ourselves from getting the kind of actionable, timely information that could save lives.
And this is the fundamental danger, I think, by treating terrorists as if they were dough domestic criminals, which they are not.
BAIER: Not to mention, Steve, the danger for U.S. troops, who would have to deal with the evidentiary procedures that FBI agents then would have to deal with.
I mean, the whole 30,000 foot issue about going from war on terror to a law enforcement action that you heard so much on the campaign, is that what you think is transforming right now?
BIRNBAUM: No question. Look, we are watching this happen. We are moving like this. We are moving from a military and intelligence-focused operation, anti-terrorism, counterterrorism, government-wide operation, to a law enforcement operation.
"The Los Angeles Times" had a very interesting story about this late last month and what they called the Justice Department's global justice initiative, which basically aims to elevate the FBI, diminish the role of the CIA and the military, precisely so they can try these suspected terrorists in court. If this is what you believe, if you believe the things that President Obama has articulated publicly in the past, this is the logical next step. I just happen to think it is a terrible step.
BAIER: It is a tough sell on Capitol Hill.
LIASSON: Yes. And if you believe that the U.S. courts and our justice system can handle anything fairly and also swiftly, and prosecute these terrorists and put them to death or put them in jail, then you would go this route.
Yes, it is going to be a problem on Capitol Hill.
BIRNBAUM: This is part of the rise of Eric Holder as a very important, maybe one of the most important advisors to President Obama. And this is being put in — the FBI is in the Justice Department. Eric holder is the attorney general. We need to keep our eye on that. I think that's a very important factor here.
But there's also, I think, the fact that there's not a real terrorist threat right now. I bet the Obama administration is not going to be as interested in Miradizing terrorists if there was a major outbreak of real violence. That will be the real test of this new policy.
BAIER: It's one we will follow.
Does the government have any business telling you how much you should earn? The panel discusses the new pay czar when we return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: We do not believe it is appropriate for the government to set caps on compensation. We will not proscribe detailed proscriptive rules for compensation.
GIBBS: He will be able to ensure for those companies receiving exceptional assistance, for the top 100 paid employees, a compensation structure that he believes and the government believes is sound and appropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: This is the heat. Kenneth Feinberg, the pay czar, also known as the "special master," this is a position that has just been created, and he can decide whether to lower salaries of executives of companies receiving some of the biggest taxpayer bailouts.
But what else could he possibly do? We're back with our panel —Jeff?
BIRNBAUM: This is a slippery slope here. I don't think anyone denies that the federal government needs to keep careful watch over the companies that they have essentially nationalized or made very large investments in.
And the politics of compensation, obviously is very volatile, as we learned with the bonus explosion over AIG, that big insurance company.
But if you look at the fine print, what's going on here is that this will be part of a package in which the administration will seek to give shareholders and others more say over compensation of not just these companies but also of many — all publicly-held companies.
And I think it's quite clear that once Congress gets in the rhythm of looking at the compensation of the companies that they invest in with taxpayer money because of bailouts, they're likely to go even further.
BAIER: Although the treasury secretary said that they're not in favor of capping compensation, but that's what he is saying today.
LIASSON: As a matter of politics and just as a practical matter, you can't have the taxpayers owning big chunks of these companies and not have the taxpayers have some kind of say in what these people are going to make.
Now, the other issue, which is the say on pay issue, which is trying to get shareholders in general in all sorts of companies to have some kind of a say in the effort to make compensation more tied to performance, more rationally tied to performance, is a different matter.
I think that some people might see a slippery slope here. But if Kenneth Feinberg tries to do with anything but the top 100 employees in those seven firms, I think it would be jus Armageddon. I don't think he will be able to do that.
I do think it will be a big incentive for every one of these TARP fund companies to get out from under the government as fast as possible.
BAIER: Which is why the big banks want to get rid of —
LIASSON: Which might be a good thing or a bad thing. If they are zombie banks, you don't want them to do them.
HAYES: Count me as one of those people who is worried about the slippery slope.
I think so long as he restricts himself to looking specifically at these companies that are either owned or receiving government money, you can make an argument, you can make a defensible argument that this is something in the issue of watching taxpayers' money, that this is something that the government needs to be doing.
On the other hand, these things that we thought were inconceivable months and months ago we are now seeing, you know, with the government owning more than half of general motors and taking over some of these banks. These things that we thought were inconceivable last August are now happening.
So the operative word is this is what Feinberg is going to be doing now. This is what Timothy Geithner wants the rule of the pay czar to be now, and these are the guidelines that the Obama administration is talking about now.
What will they be in a year? I think once you open this up, then the question becomes, and this has long been sort of been a charging issue for the political left, the question then becomes, what's fair? And then you have a debate about what's fair, and who makes that determination will be the real debate?
BIRNBAUM: What is fair is definitely less than these people are making now in all likelihood.
BAIER: But who says that?
BIRNBAUM: It is always a problem to try to allow Washington to dictate anything to business, or business to think that they can dictate the way government works. These are very different entities. It is a classic dilemma and problem between Washington and New York.
LIASSON: But a company propped up and it is only being propped up by the federal government, then why should you making tremendous amounts of money?
BIRNBAUM: This is central problem to the entire debate.
In addition, there is not just a slippery slope, but a downward spiral involved here, which is that if you lower the compensation of the people you are relying on to get back the taxpayers' money, you're likely to lose those top-level executives, and therefore —
WILLIAMS: — you will have a brain drain that will make it more difficult for the federal government to get the money out of these companies, because they won't be making as much money. You won't have the people making the best decisions available.
LIASSON: Why can't you just tie their pay to performance? Right now they are performing pretty abysmally.
BIRNBAUM: That is, in effect, I think what Feinberg is — he didn't say anything, but what Geithner alluded to, that there won't be an actual dollar cap. So there might be some incentive program, but it would be nothing like what the private sector now allows without government interventions.
BAIER: And finally, to quote Charles Krauthammer, it seems like there are more czars than at a Romanov wedding. This czar, whole phenomenon, Mara. What are we at, 20 or close to 20?
LIASSON: Now I think we are around 20. Other administrations have used them, but never to the extent that the Obama administration has used them.
And the answer we got today in the briefing was, look, there is so much that the regular cabinet agency personnel have to do that we can't really ask one of them to take on these tasks. We have to bring in somebody from the outside.
BAIER: It's interesting.
HAYES: You could call it bizarre. You could actually ask them to do less and then free them up to do all the other things the czars are doing.
BAIER: After Tuesday's story about Charles Krauthammer, a number of you wrote and said well done. So we thought it would be even better to let you see and hear what Charles had to say when he received his award yesterday.
So you can go on to our Special Report page at FOXnews.com and get the full story there and see the clip. Just push play.
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