Copyright 2001 CNBC, Inc.
CNBC News Transcripts
SHOW: Hardball with Chris Matthews (8:00 PM ET) - CNBC
September 24, 2001 Monday
LENGTH: 1809 words
HEADLINE: Senator John Kerry speaks on surveillance and American security
ANCHORS: CHRIS MATTHEWS
CHRIS MATTHEWS, host:
We're joined right now, speaking of Boston, by Senator John Kerry of
Massachusetts, joins us right now. Senator, thanks for joining us. You know, I
guess I've got to start with the latest development. The pilots just announced
they want to carry guns, they want to be able--the right to carry guns on
airplanes. What do you make of that? The pilots union decision.
Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusets): I think the pilots probably
ought to be able to. They certainly ought to be able to carry a stun gun at the
very least, and with the proper training that would be one further barrier of
MATTHEWS: Let's talk about Ashcroft, the attorney general, conservative
fellow, once more, wire tap authority. What do you make of that? Are you for
that kind of approach? Tougher, tougher surveillance?
Sen. KERRY: I am for tougher surveillance. I think you've got to do it,
obviously, in keeping with the liberties of our country. But you can do these
things, many of them. For instance, it's absolutely outdated to have a wire tap
linked only to a telephone number in a modern age where you throw one away and
use another one 10 minutes later. So I think it's absolutely legitimate to
track the wire tap to a specific individual. There are other kinds of things
that we must do in order to modernize.
MATTHEWS: What about criminalizing the harboring of these people? If you're
Mrs. O'Malley, or Mrs. Mohammed, or whatever, you've got a guy living in your
basement, and it turns out he was chatting with you about this sort of thing.
This would criminalize it, wouldn't it?
Sen. KERRY: Well...
MATTHEWS: That's what he wants to do.
Sen. KERRY: ...you're going to have a level of intent or knowledge with
respect to the crime or you're not going to have a crime. I don't think you can
make it a status offense and get by. Certainly, anybody who knowingly harbors
CNBC News Transcripts September 24, 2001 Monday
them, they're part of a crime today, anyway. That's a conspiracy for a number
of different things.
MATTHEWS: Well, what advanced authority does Ashcroft want then?
Sen. KERRY: Well, I haven't seen the specific--I'd have to see exactly how it
is phrased in order to understand it. I mean, I think we're all going to look
very carefully at each and every proposal. Clearly, we support the president in
the country's effort to try to fight the terrorists. And we're going to do what
we think is reasonable. But at the same time, Americans don't want to give up a
standard, a very high standard of freedom, and of protection of individual
rights, and we have to balance those.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that case where they--where the passengers
heading west to Salt Lake City said they wouldn't get on a plane with these
guys? They turned out to be--I think they were Hindu--they weren't even Islamic
Sen. KERRY: Well, it's sad but it's understandable. I mean, there obviously
is fear abroad in the land. We have to curb that fear. I think those of us in
Washington really have a responsibility here, Chris, to balance our rhetoric and
to balance the definitions of this war with the realities of what we face in the
country. You know, we've had terrorism for a long time now. We've had the
Achille Lauro, the Munich Olympics, the pipe bomb at the Olympics in Atlanta,
the TWA 800, the bombing of embassies, and it's not going to disappear
overnight. We've always been threatened by it. What's different here,
obviously, is the nature of these individuals and what they were willing to do
in order to hurt us here at home. We can, I think, most protect ourselves by
carrying on with our way of life, with a higher state of vigilance about what's
going on around us, but mostly by increasing the capacity of our country to
gather intelligence and to fight this at its source, to fight this in other
places before they get here and to do a much much better work of international
policing and of anti-terrorist effort by fighting it abroad.
MATTHEWS: We have reports this weekend from credible sources that there are a
thousand terrorists in this country already from that part of the world. Until
people get on planes, I haven't been on a plane since then, I don't know what
you do. But aren't--aren't you going to expect vigilantism of even the most
mildest form like people saying I won't fly with those people until people see
some manifest evidence that people are checked out who are suspicious or at
least some evidence there's a guy on the plane with fire power to stop them?
Sen. KERRY: Absolutely, Chris. No question about it and I've argued
strongly--that's why I introduced legislation last week with Senator Hollings
and Senator McCain to federalize the security process in the country, guarantee
we have marshals on the planes and also harden the cockpit doors so that
everybody is absolutely assured about the impossibility of a similar event
happening again. I mean, we could put $15 billion into the airlines, but the
American public has got to be convinced that they want to fly and that they
think it's safe. I think that's where you need the most dramatic efforts today.
Although, I will say, I believe it's safe to fly. I think it's safer to fly
today than it's been for years, and we can make it safer still.
MATTHEWS: Was it safe two weeks ago?
Sen. KERRY: Obviously not.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do we know now that we didn't know two weeks ago. Now we
know that we've got a thousand dangerous people in the country, and I--do you
think we would catch them if we had two weeks notice?
Sen. KERRY: I think a number of things have changed since then, Chris. First
of all, there's a much heightened security level in the inspections at the
airport. Secondly, there are going to be air marshals flying on these aircraft,
and thirdly, the dynamics of what happened last Tuesday were really ingenious in
their horrendous deviousness. I mean, they played the terror of that aircraft.
But remember the moment the people on the flight in Pennsylvania learned what
had happened to the other flights, they changed the entire dynamic, and those
terrorists did also not get to their objective.
MATTHEWS. Yeah, but they weren't warned by the US government. The FBI
didn't warn them, the CIA didn't warn them, the Federal government didn't warn
them. They were warned by wives, and I just wonder why anybody would think that
any one of those thousand people that the FBI has identified, it's been in all
the press this weekend, why wouldn't you believe they're sitting next to you?
How do you know they're not sitting next to you now on the plane?
Sen. KERRY: I think, Chris, that's precisely why you need the guarantee of
the level of screening. You need the level of security on the plane with the
marshals and the hardening of the cockpits, and I think it is safe to fly today.
I personally believe the screening that is taking place today is at a higher
level of scrutiny than ever before. Is it what it ought to be if we
federalized? The answer is no. I think not. I think we need to do the
federalization to guarantee the American public we have the highest level of
security. It's like flying to Israel on El-Al. You can't get on there and not
MATTHEWS: I agree there. I wish all the United States senators would refuse
to fly until they see a marshal on the plane. But that's just my opinion.
Crop dusters. What do you make of the fact of a chemical, perhaps
biological, warfare being perpetrated. These fellows, the same one, apparently,
Mohammed Atta is one of them, went in looking for information on how much
gallonage he could put in a fuel tank and how much poison he could put in the
plane to drop somewhere. What do you make of that threat?
Sen. KERRY: I make of the fact that it is a recognition of what many of us
have known and what many people have warned about for a long period of time. We
know that Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction against his own
people. We know that others have sought those weapons for a long period of
time, and there is, in fact, such a risk. We all understand that. I don't
believe it's imminent, Chris, but I do believe that that is why--it underscores
why it is so imperative for us to go after these terrorists at home, to suck out
from underneath them their capacity to be able to survive, to keep them on the
run. And that's why things like the money laundering efforts, the financial
security system in the world, the global intelligence gathering, all of these
things have to be improved way beyond what we've even done today.
MATTHEWS: Well, you're no Johnny-come-lately. You wrote a book called "The
New War" many years ago. I hope they bring it out in new printing. But let me
ask you about Canada. Chretien today. Everybody in Canada is very sensitive--
is watching right now--to American pushiness. Which they've seen in the past.
How do we get the Canadians to share the same kind of view we have about
bringing terrorists into North America. They apparently allow people involved
in these political organizations to come in.
Sen. KERRY: I think, Chris, there's a new awareness even for the Canadians. I
mean, the--what we've learned now is, and it's underscored, we have three
different security systems for the perimeters of our nations, for Canada, the
United States and Mexico. We need now to bring all three of them into
uniformity, and we need to raise the standards of all three of them so that
we're protecting the entire perimeter of Canada, the United States and Mexico
MATTHEWS: Are you a little despondent to hear that the FBI today, Mr.
Mueller, Director Mueller has called for Arabic-speaking people to join the FBI,
that they just thought of this now? There was a terrorist threat from that part
of the world, obviously, breathing down our back for years now. They say, 'Oh,
we might need some Arabic speakers to infiltrate.' That seems a little late in
Sen. KERRY: It is late in the game, and I just left the intelligence
committee last year. I did my six years on it, and it was one of the things
that a number of us on the intelligence committee pushed, was the notion that
what we really needed was a great deal more what they call human intelligence.
We need to significantly increase our capacity to be able to gather intelligence
in certain parts of the world, and we need to look to our allies now and our new
allies, those who say they're going to cooperate with us. The first measure of
their cooperation, Chris, should be whether or not they are giving us
intelligence that we know they have. We can find Osama bin Laden, of that I am
confident, with their help or with the help of other people now.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.
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