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UQ Wire: 911 Widow Kristen Breitweiser On Hardball

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Kristen Breitweiser On Hardball - Transcript

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Content and programming copyright 2003 MSNBC.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Transcription Copyright 2003 FDCH e-Media
(f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.)
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
MSNBC
SHOW: HARDBALL 21:00

December 18, 2003 Thursday

TRANSCRIPT: # 121800cb.461

SECTION: NEWS; DOMESTIC

LENGTH: 8202 words

HEADLINE: HARDBALL For December 18, 2003

BYLINE: Chris Matthews; Peggy Noonan; David Shuster; Lawrence O'Donnell

GUESTS: Jeanine Pirro; Joe Tacopino; Ian Drew; Pete Mirijanian; Alexandra Starr; Kristen Breitweiser; Raymond Tanter

(excerpt)

(NEWS BREAK)


MATTHEWS: The HARDBALL "Debate" tonight: Could 9/11 have been prevented?

The head of the independent commission investigating the terror attacks is now saying, the plot could have been thwarted.

HARDBALL's David Shuster has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two years after 9/11, the Republican chairman of the commission investigating the attacks is now saying they could have and should have been prevented. Tom Kean, appointed by President Bush, has told CBS News -- quote -- "I do not believe it had to happen. There were people certainly, if I was doing the job, who would certainly not be in the position that they were in at that time, because they failed. They simply failed."

Kean has not yet named names. But some 9/11 families are pointing to the president's national security adviser and her take on al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 16, 2002)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER: But FBI documents in the 1990s stated specifically that al Qaeda was considering using airplanes as weapons.

Meanwhile, the president and his national security team have been battling with the 9/11 Commission over top-secret briefing papers.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't know why the president is not giving information to the Kean commission. I think that is supposed to be invested by -- investigated by Congress. I think it's a serious matter. I agree with Wes Clark. The president is not fighting terrorism. And we need to know what went wrong before 9/11.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John McCain and I created the September 11 Commission to find out the full truth about that. George Bush has been dragging his feet. And his White House has failed to adequately cooperate.

The commission, in addition to seeking White House documents, has been examining intelligence agency reports and has been reviewing warnings about student pilots from FBI field offices.

DANA DILLON, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Even if there were people who did stupid things or overlooked stupid things, there were so many institutional problems already in place that it is not going to be a surprise that they are going to find problems with the pre-9/11 stance of the government.

SHUSTER (on camera): The 9/11 Commission will be offering possibly dramatic testimony to Congress next month. The question is, is politics at work here or could 9/11 really have been prevented?

I'm David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Kristen Breitweiser is a 9/11 widow who fought for the creation of the independent commission on the 9/11 attacks. And Raymond Tanter is a former National Security Council member in the Reagan administration.

Kristen, thanks for coming back. The same topic as always: Could this have been prevented? What do you know now, thanks to what Tom Kean had to say?

KRISTEN BREITWEISER, WIDOW OF 9/11 VICTIM: Well, I think it doesn't come as a surprise that he stated that 9/11 could have been prevented.

I think what is a surprise is that he did in fact come out and acknowledge that people should be held accountable. And I think that, in order for us to make sure as a country that 9/11 will never happen again, we need to make sure that the individuals who are responsible for the failures are held accountable. And the way we do that is by Governor Kean and the rest of the commissioners producing a comprehensive, definitive report that will indeed hold people accountable for their failures on that morning.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Raymond Tanter.

Your thought about why Tom Kean, a former governor of New Jersey, a moderate Republican, maybe too independent a Republican by some people's standards, has said something so inflammatory, as to say it could have been prevented at this point.

RAYMOND TANTER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Chris, Governor Kean is engaged in Monday-morning quarterbacking.

Do you know why it is easier to do quarterbacking on Monday morning? Because you know what the outcome is. It is simply not fair to think that, after the fact, you know what happened, you could have known before the fact occurred.

Think about the famous revolutions in history, the Russian Revolution, French Revolution, the Iranian Revolution. No one predicted any of these humongous events in history. Iraq crosses the border into Kuwait. Who predicted that one? Israel attacks Syria and Egypt. No one predicted that.

MATTHEWS: But you can turn on -- but you can

(CROSSTALK)

BREITWEISER: Respectfully...

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go ahead, Kristen.

BREITWEISER: Respectfully, if I could just jump in, I don't think it is Monday-morning quarterbacking. I think that the historical record is replete with instances of al Qaeda looking into using planes as weapons.

The hijackers were training in U.S. military flight schools. The FBI had 13 open files on individuals with connections to the hijackers. We had money transfers coming from overseas from individuals with contacts with Osama bin Laden to the hijackers, increments above $10,000, which should have been picked up by our intelligence agencies. We have Pentagon reports stating that planes could be used as weapons.

You know, this is not Monday-morning -- Monday-morning quarterbacking. This should have been known. And we need to find out why our national security adviser came out and stated that she had no idea planes could be used as weapons. She should have known. And we need to find out why she did not know.

TANTER: Well, with all due respect, I think you can hold people accountable, but you have to know what is knowable.

First of all, many studies are done in the U.S. government, some of which say that you can do all kinds of things. The national security adviser sits at the top of a pyramid. And, at the bottom, you have all of these studies being done. She didn't have a study in front of her with respect to the contingency that you would have planes knocking down buildings. So I think that it's unfair...

BREITWEISER: You don't need a study when you had Egypt Air in 1989, which was your first example of a suicide hijacking. You don't need studies when you have John Deutch, in 1996, giving a statement that there is a Center For Terrorism, a CTC, between the FBI and the CIA which sole job is to coordinate information from overseas and from the U.S. intelligence agencies, the DIA, the NSA, the State Department, to put that information together.

TANTER: In fact...

(CROSSTALK)

BREITWEISER: We already had TTIC back in 1996. And what we need to find out is why that didn't work on the morning of 9/11.

TANTER: In fact, I think you are on the right track now, because you are looking toward the future.

There is something called stovepiping in the intelligence business. Stovepiping says that you have a bit of evidence coming in through, say, the FBI and some evidence coming through the CIA. It goes up the stovepipe and then out into the atmosphere. You don't have that now. You have cross-fertilization. You have people talking to one another.

BREITWEISER: According to John Deutch

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let him finish.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Kristen, you got to let him finish. Let him finish.

BREITWEISER: Sorry.

MATTHEWS: And then point out.

TANTER: I doubt whether you have the kind of catastrophic intelligence failure in -- of the type -- of the type of 9/11 as a result of the fact that stovepiping no longer exists, Chris.

BREITWEISER: In 1996, John Deutch, who was DCI, stated to a group of individuals at Georgetown University -- he was extolling the virtues of the intel community in their attempts to fight counterterrorism, groups like al Qaeda.

Stovepiping is an unacceptable excuse, because we had the procedure. We had the interagency communications. We had the infiltration of these terrorist groups

(CROSSTALK)

BREITWEISER: And why didn't it work on the morning of 9/11?

MATTHEWS: OK, Kristen, Kristen, if you were president of the United States the morning or the day before September 11, 2001, knowing all that you know now, do some Monday-morning quarterbacking. What would you have done to prevent this from happening? If you didn't know what airport and you didn't know how it was going to fit together, but you had some knowledge of what it might look, how would you have prevented it?

BREITWEISER: Undoubtedly, I think that I would have told the public. I would have told people like my husband and the 3,000 others that worked in New York City and that decided to fly on planes that day that we were a nation under an imminent threat, that the airlines were a target.

And after the first building in New York City, then you know what? People like my husband in the second building would have immediately fled. They would have immediately evacuated that second tower, because they wouldn't have thought it was an accident.

People like Donald Rumsfeld may not have sat at his desk for 45 minutes until the Pentagon was hit. People like the president wouldn't have sat there for 25 minutes in front of a group of children.

(CROSSTALK)

BREITWEISER: They would have acted more decisively. Lives would have been saved. I would have informed the public.

MATTHEWS: It sounds like the problem is at the top.

BREITWEISER: It does.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. It is great having you both on again. Thank you very much.

BREITWEISER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Kristen Breitweiser.

And my new pal, Raymond Tanter. Thank you for coming on.

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of criminal justice, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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