All-Star Panel on Times Square Terrorism Reaction, Gulf Oil Spill

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from May 4, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They will stop at nothing to kill and disrupt our way of life, but once again an attempted attack has failed. It has failed because ordinary citizens were vigilant and reported suspicious activity to the authorities. It failed because these authorities, local, state, and federal, acted quickly and did what they're trained to do.

HOLDER: It is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country.

JOHN PISTOLE, FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: He was, as the attorney general noted, cooperative and provided valuable intelligence and evidence. He was eventually transported to another location, Mirandized and continued talking.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Well, law enforcement officials say Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan, was behind the Times Square bombing attempt. He was arrested at JFK airport 53 hours and 20 minutes after he parked the car, they say, in Times Square.

Now, the administration is reacting to this and the investigation is continuing as the president got an update today in the Situation Room on the terrorism situation. There are new arrests tonight in Pakistan tied to this particular suspect as this investigation continues.

What about all of this, the politics and the policy? Let's bring in the panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think the first thing that has to be said is, as you point out, 53 hours is pretty impressive. It is pretty clear that there was crack investigative work since the time the bombing failed.

The questions I have relate to what happened before the bombing. This is the third time now in six months that we have had somebody with ties to radical Islam Islamist who has either successfully attacked the United States or attempt to attack the United States. The successful attack was Fort Hood, where Nidal Hasan had email contact with a radical Al Qaeda cleric in Yemen.

And you had the Christmas Day bomber who had been trained in Yemen and had contact with the same cleric. And now you have Shahzad who has been in touch and trained in Waziristan and has numerous links to foreign terrorist organizations as indicated by the arrest.

The question you have to ask at this point I think is why haven't we been more successful on the front end in thwarting these attacks? You saw the president I think choose his words carefully. He sounded like he was going to say the attack had been thwarted. Instead he changed it and said the attack failed.

That is an important distinction that I think will receive a lot of scrutiny going forward as we talk about how the administration is approaching these attempted terrorist attacks and these would be terrorists on the front end.

Again, a lot of props to the administration and the law enforcement community for how they handled it after the fact. It's the beforehand I think deserves further scrutiny.

BAIER: There is also Najibullah Zazi's thwarted plot to blow up subways in New York City. This has all happened under President Obama, Juan. What about this criticism that the administration initially tries to downplay a situation like this? Do you think they put it behind them in the way they reacted to this particular attempt?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think we've had an evolving terrorist threat to our country. Part of it is on 9/11 we were facing organized terror with Al Qaeda in some command structure sending people in to do the dirty work.

Now I think we are in a different situation where you have individuals because the command structure has been destroyed by American military and intelligence, I think it's been dismantled for the most part. But you get the individuals either coming from overseas, less likely, or homegrown who then decide they want training and bring terror to the shores.

That is a different kind of thing. I don't think that the administration was anxious to say yes, this is terrorism of the same sort that Al Qaeda when it was organized by Al Qaeda that Al Qaeda was perpetrating.

But I think they now have to think in those terms, because as opposed to saying it's a lone wolf — it may be a lone wolf, but the lone wolf may have friends and there could be pack of wolves elsewhere. And even in this country in terms of sleeper cells and the wolves go out at different times.

BAIER: And they are saying this guy said he had training inside Pakistan and now there have been multiple arrests in that country. So the string is still being pulled at this hour.

WILLIAMS: And in fact that was I think one of the concerns last night in the middle of the night was they were trying to get information from him. Apparently he is singing, by the way, he is not in court and that's part of the reason he has not been lawyered up, as Steve Hayes would say, about what happened with Abdulmutallab.

But that he is giving information. The question is, were there others? At this point there is no indication that there were.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Because it's a new kind of terrorism, homegrown, and we know less about it than we did about the older kind, I'm concerned about what happened after his apprehension.

I give complete credit to the administration and the law enforcement locally for going from the first sign of smoke to apprehension in 53 hours. That is a hell of a job and it's excellent, excellent work.

And they did interrogate him initially under the public safety exception of the Miranda rule, which is a ruling from the mid-'80 from the Supreme Court if there is immediate danger you don't have to Mirandize the suspect. You can ask where is the gun, where is the bomb, any other explosives in the area.

My problem is why they then Mirandized him. They have said he is still talking. But when you read a guy his rights, you say you have the right to remain silent and get an attorney. There is no way of knowing in advance he will keep talking. He could — it's distinctly possible he will shut up and get a lawyer and say nothing.

Here we are in a situation that we don't know the parameters and we don't know if he has accomplices here or in Pakistan, the extent of the contacts, the network, the training camps. You get immediate information, yes.

So why did they give him his Miranda rights? They are only two reasons. One is you want to be able to use everything he says in a court of law afterwards. First of all, in this case, he didn't need that. Everything he said under the public safety exception would have been enough to get a guilty verdict, including all of the physical evidence.

And second, even if it did impede a trial, a guilty verdict two years hence, what is more important, a verdict two years hence or information today that would prevent another attack in the next year or two?

BAIER: The Homeland Security Department under Janet Napolitano has been more forthcoming in this investigation during this event. Did they learn, do you think, Steve, after the Christmas Day bomber? Is there a lesson learned that is in effect now that you are seeing in how this has developed?

HAYES: Yes and no. I think they learned to do PR better. There is certainly that case. But as Charles says, it's not clear they learned on the question of what is more valuable.

I think Eric Holder in his middle-of-the-night statement went out of his way to say they were seeking intelligence as opposed to just looking to prosecute him. And I think it's a better way to characterize what they were doing.

But the question is, great if he's talking and telling us everything that he would have told us had he not been Mirandized. But the question is, if he had been Mirandized and stopped talking, what intelligence do we miss at a time when the intelligence is freshest and most important?

It's always important to remember intelligence is perishable. If we don't get it initially you could lose the opportunity —

WILLIAMS: One important thing here is the exception, and that he is an American citizen. Abdulmutallab was not an American citizen.

HAYES: True.

BAIER: True. Much more on this, guaranteed, in other panels to come.

Coming up, the administration deals with the oil spill off the Gulf coast. Check out all the information online. But stick with us in three minutes.


BAIER: The administration is dealing with these pictures, the oil spill off the coast of the, the Gulf coast, still dealing with the clean- up, how to get it contained, and it continues to spew out.

Here is how the Associated Press, one story last Thursday had — "Will this be Obama's Katrina? Should the federal and state government have done more earlier? Did they learn the lesson of the devastating hurricane?" Here is The New York Times: "It may be too simplistic to place all the blame on the oil companies. The federal government also had opportunity to move more quickly but did not do so while it waited for a resolution to stop the spill from BP."

BAIER: What about all of this? We're back with the panel. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, the administration I think was somewhat slow in the uptake. But in its defense, what could it have done physically on the ground? Look, in Katrina, there was stuff that the government could have done. It would have had to override state the local government and probably would have been unconstitutional, but Bush could have ordered in the army and do what had to be done, drop supplies, et cetera. It was physically doable.

Here, what can the administration have done? Capping a well is something that the army can't do. The Navy can't do. Only the oil company can. Containing it would have required facilities which I don't even think exist. We only have oil booms in very small numbers, which is a problem of the old administration as well, and it could only have any effect on the margins. So even though it was slow on the uptake, there was nothing I think that it failed to do with any importance.

BAIER: But Juan, you are still trusting the oil company to run the show without the oversight specifically to know that they're doing a good job early on.

WILLIAMS: I think oversight was there. I think coast guard was exercising what they considered —

BAIER: So when BP says we have it covered, the coast guard says OK?

WILLIAMS: Initially the coast guard was involved in trying to save the lives of the 11 who died. But then when BP says we think this thing is not spouting, or is just spouting 1,000 and we have it under control because we have failsafe mechanisms, I think the coast guard then was in the position -

BAIER: There is also an EPA.

WILLIAMS: That could have been involved. They apparently were not involved in that point. At that point it was coast guard on the scene. And then I think you can have the questions that you just saw raised legitimately by the "New York Times" and others. But I must say I think the argue now is one of, oh, is the policy going to shift? Is this an argument about how to change President Obama's position that oh, yes, we are going to allow offshore drilling? Now that argument I think is engaged. And you hear the senators from New Jersey, Florida, the like, saying, you know what, we don't want any drilling along the east coast of the United States. The threat of that spill even coming around the coast of Florida is enough to set off alarms. And I think it changes the conversation. Will the Obama administration now back off now that that promise is in place?

BAIER: They are sensitive to this whole issue of how it's played from the beginning with all the statements over the weekend from day one, from day one, right?

HAYES: There's no question that they're sensitive. I think the articles that you quoted suggest to us why they're sensitive.

I don't think that — look, certain point 1,000 barrels a day is what they were initially told. Up to 5,000 barrels a day. Now estimates that it could range as high as 25,000 barrels a day. The information at the beginning was not clear. It wasn't solid. Nobody knew whether it was solid or not. So I think to ask them to act on that information beyond what they skied a bit much. But I think Juan's point is a very good point, and this is where this debate shifts. Talk about the economic policy. If the president gives a signal he is reversing himself on drilling, or that he is contemplating a broader moratorium on drilling or exploration, think of the economic impact that could have can at a time when this president can least afford to have anything shackle the economy right now.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: One point on the uptake. I think Steve pointed out last week that the explosion happened on a Tuesday, and in the president's address to the nation on Saturday, he talked about financial reform. He didn't say a word about it. So it was slow, but on the other hand, there wasn't a lot he could have done.

BAIER: And does this become more of an issue politically, Juan?

WILLIAMS: This is a very critical issue because I think lots of people not only along the coast with the commercial fishing and tourism are impacted, it will have economic impact. And I think for the administration the question is did you do enough soon enough is coming from the left as well as the right.

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