Cheney interview, Bush ordered planes shot down.greenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News : One Thread
Cheney sees long, ‘dirty’ war
Vice president, attorney general seek broader powers to battle terrorists
Sept. 16 — The Bush administration on Sunday said it would seek expanded legal powers to fight terrorism at home and abroad, with Vice President Dick Cheney telling NBC News that the effort would require “mean, dirty” intelligence tactics not currently allowed. Attorney General John Ashcroft said he would ask Congress for greater flexibility to detain foreigners suspected of plotting attacks and to wiretap telephones of suspects.
ARGUING THAT some existing laws unfairly tie the government’s hands, Cheney and Ashcroft insisted greater flexibility is paramount to defeating terrorism following Tuesday’s attacks in which 5,000 people were feared killed.
Cheney, in an interview in which he also disclosed that President Bush had authorized shooting down commercial jetliners if they appeared to be threats last Tuesday, said that while military strikes are an option, intelligence activities would play a key role as well.
“We also have to work the dark side if you will, the shadows, in the intelligence world,” he said in the nearly hour-long interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Asked if that meant lifting current restrictions on who the United States can recruit for intelligence, Cheney said “I think so. ... We need to be able to penetrate these organizations” by using “any means at our disposal.”
Reminded that some past intelligence sources had been human rights violators, Cheney insisted that “we need to have on the payroll some very unsavory characters. ... It is a mean, nasty, dangerous and dirty business and we have to operate in that arena.”
Cheney was interviewed at Camp David, where the president had assembled his closest aides. Moments after the interview, Ashcroft appeared before reporters to announce anti-terrorism legislation would be sent to Congress this week.
“We need to elevate the penalties for those who would harbor or assist terrorists to at least the same level as the penalties for those who would harbor or assist those who have been involved in espionage,” he said.
The Justice Department will also seek expanded rights to detain foreigners suspected of plotting attacks on U.S. soil, to wiretap telephones of suspects and to track money laundering that finances their networks.
“It’s easier to get a wiretap against a drug dealer or someone who’s involved in illegal gambling than it is against terrorists,” Ashcroft said earlier on Fox News Sunday.
VP ON BIN LADEN, OTHERS
Cheney insisted that unlike the Gulf War, where the enemy was easily located, this war includes shadowy networks around the world.
Those groups and their supporters, governments among them, should understand that they can expect the “full wrath of the United States of America,” he added.
He specifically cited the Islamic Jihad in Egypt and extremists in Uzbekistan, formerly part of the Soviet Union.
As President Bush had Saturday, Cheney said the prime suspect in Tuesday’s attacks is Osama bin Laden, who on Sunday, in a statement faxed to the Afghan Islamic Press, again denied any involvement.
“I have no doubt that he and his organization played a significant role,” Cheney said. “There’s a lot of evidence to link his organization ... to this operation,” he added, among them ties to the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.
But, he emphasized, “that doesn’t mean there weren’t others involved.”
The vice president said that while he would be happy to have bin Laden’s “head on a platter,” that itself wouldn’t end the war against his followers and other terrorists.
Asked by “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert if the United States knows whether bin Laden is still in Afghanistan, which had been harboring him for years, Cheney quickly replied, “We don’t know.”
BUSH OK’D SHOOTING AIRLINERS
Asked what the president’s toughest decision was on the day of the attacks, Cheney said that it was when he advised the president to authorize shooting down commercial aircraft if they appeared to be threats.
The president accepted the advice, Cheney noted, adding, however, that it was not a standing order.
The vice president noted that in all the terrorism drills before the attacks, U.S. military pilots had never been trained to shoot down commercial airlines. “Now we’ve got to think about that,” he said.
Cheney also surmised that the hijacked jetliner that hit the Pentagon had initially targeted the White House but that the hijackers might have had to change course because the White House is harder to see, given the proximity of buildings around it.
On when Ronald Reagan National Airport might reopen, Cheney said its closeness to so many important federal buildings requires finding “a way to deal with that problem” and that doing so “may precede re-opening the airport.”
Asked if the government might take over airport ecurity, now in the hands of airlines, Cheney said security issues are being reviewed. There was a “significant failure,” he said, “but, again, they didn’t do it with guns or explosives, they did it with knives.”
‘WE’RE AT WAR’
On Saturday, Bush directed members of the armed forces to “get ready ... we’re at war.”
“We will smoke them out of their holes,” he added of terrorists. “We’ll get them running, and we’ll bring them to justice.”
In his weekly radio address, Bush said those who planned Tuesday’s attacks “will discover what others in the past have learned: Those who make war against the United States have chosen their own destruction.”
One option for retaliation: kill bin Laden and some of his lieutenants, despite an executive order signed by President Reagan in the 1980s that forbids assassination of foreign political leaders.
Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former CIA agent, told CNN on Saturday that while he did not anticipate that there would be a specific list of those to be assassinated, “lethal force” might well be used in attempts to arrest those who plotted the attacks.
Girding for action at home and abroad, Bush issued a national emergency order that authorized the activation of up to 50,000 military reservists given “the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.”
A Newsweek poll published Saturday indicated that 71 percent of Americans want the U.S. military to strike against terrorist bases and the countries that support them even if there is a high likelihood that civilians would be killed.
A White House official said Thursday the administration wants an international coalition to be in place before the United States retaliates, even if it means a delay of weeks or months.
But a senior official, speaking privately, told the Associated Press that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants to punish the perpetrators as soon as they are identified, regardless of how far along the coalition-building process is.
BIN LADEN AND AFGHANISTAN
Once a U.S. ally against the 1980s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, bin Laden came to oppose the United States after Saudi Arabia allowed U.S. troops on its soil in preparation for the Persian Gulf War against Iraq.
Since then, bin Laden has been implicated in several attacks, including bombings in Saudi Arabia that killed 24 U.S. service members; the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people; and the suicide bombing last year of the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 sailors.
Afghan leaders have denied they or bin Laden were involved in the attacks and on Sunday reiterated they would not hand bin Laden over. They also warned Muslims to prepare for a “jihad,” or holy war.
“You should know that this is not only the issue of Osama, it is opposition to Islam,” Mullah Mohammad Omar said Friday, according to the Taliban Voice of Shariat Radio. “Each Muslim should be ready for a jihad against this and be ready for his religion, if there is a need for him to sacrifice himself for Islam and his belief, and make a sacrifice for the symbol of belief in Islam.”
Still, Afghanistan appears to have lost the support of neighboring Pakistan, which has had strong ties to the Taliban.
Pakistan on Sunday said it was sending a delegation to Kabul. A senior Pakistani government source said on condition of anonymity that the delegation would be demanding that the Taliban hand over bin Laden.
A day earlier, Pakistan agreed to U.S. requests, among them: to allow a multinational force to be based within its borders, to close its border with Afghanistan, to allow its airspace to be used for possible strikes and to cooperate in intelligence-gathering.
Support for U.S. retaliation has come from around the world, including the U.N. Security Council and NATO allies.
But French Defense Minister Alain Richard cautioned Saturday that “armed action is only one of the ways of responding. What is necessary is a way that does not provoke other elements of instability.” More than 5 million Muslims live in France, about 10 percent of the population.
-- Anonymous, September 16, 2001
It must have been a gut-wrenching decision to order the plane shot down. I know you'll understand when I say I'm so glad the passengers crashed the plane--it's a burden Bush (and the fighter plane pilots) won't have to bear.
-- Anonymous, September 16, 2001