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MSNBC Meet the Press - Transcript

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MSNBC Meet the Press - Transcript
Sunday, June 12, 2005

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Casualties continue to mount in Iraq. Tensions build with Iran. With us, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden of Delaware and Republican vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and author of "Countdown to Terror: The Top-Secret Information That Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America and How the CIA Has Ignored It," Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania. Then George Bush's second term, Hillary Clinton's message to the media, Howard Dean on politics and religion. Insights and analysis from David Broder of The Washington Post, John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal, Gwen Ifill of PBS' "Washington Week" and long-term political reporter and the former anchor of CNN's "Inside Politics," Judy Woodruff.

But first, Congressman Curt Weldon and Senator Joe Biden, just back from Iraq, welcome both.

Senator Biden, let me start with you and show you something that Vice President Cheney said on May 30. "I think the level of activity that we see today in Iraq from a military standpoint, I think will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Do you agree with that?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DL): I do not agree with that, Tim, and I think there's this incredible gap between the reality on the ground and the rhetoric back here and I think it's causing us the loss of support among the American people, and if the administration doesn't straighten it out pretty soon, they're going to find that they're going to have real trouble with, I mean, any consensus among the American people to do what we need to do in Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Weldon, let me show you something that you said I saw in The Washington Post that was of interest to me, picking up on Senator Biden's point. "Bush's Optimism On Iraq Debated. This disconnect between Roses Garden optimism and Baghdad pessimism, according to government officials and independent analysts, stems not only from Bush's focus on tentative signs of long-term progress but also from the shrinking range of policy options available to him if he is wrong. ... Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) ...said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others are misleading Americans about the number of functional Iraqi troops and warned the president to pay more attention to shutting off Syrian and Iranian assistant to the insurgency. 'We don't want to raise the expectations of the American people prematurely,' he said."

Who's misleading the American people and how?

REP. CURT WELDON, (R-PA): Well, Senator Biden and I and the six-member delegation I took with us to Iraq were concerned because the level of training of the Iraqi troops has been represented to the American people as being much more competent than it is today. Senator Biden and I probed this issue aggressively with our generals and they agree with us that you have to define what the level of training, in fact, is. And if you look at those troops that have a level one capability, which mean they can operate totally on their own without backup of U.S. support, it's not the size the numbers that are being reported back home here in America.

MR. RUSSERT: How many would you say it is?

REP. WELDON: I think it's around three divisions.

MR. RUSSERT: Which is?

REP. WELDON: Was it 80,000, Joe?

SEN. BIDEN: No, it's much less. It's three battalions.

REP. WELDON: Oh, three battalions.

SEN. BIDEN: Three battalions. You're talking about thousands, Tim. Not tens of thousands.

REP. WELDON: And the point was that, you know, we all support the effort there. And Joe has come out and I applaud him for this in opposing any artificial date to remove the troops, but we can't come back to America and have our people being convinced that the Iraqi troops are prepared to take over when they're not. That's only going to cause our people back home to say, "Bring them home now," and really we're not ready to bring them home right now.

MR. RUSSERT: Realistically, Congressman Weldon and Senator Biden, how long in your estimation will it take for the Iraqis to have, say, 150,000 level-one troops so the Americans can come home?

REP. WELDON: I would say a minimum of eight to 10 months, maximum probably two years, and that's assuming everything goes well.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden?

SEN. BIDEN: Yeah, I think two years, Tim. You may get to the point where you have a competent number, somewhere 70,000, 80,000 by the end of this year, but to get to the point where you have 150,000 or 163,000 as the vice president is taking about, you're talking two years. There's overwhelming consensus, nothing less than a year, some say as long as three years, and this is talking to the guys standing on the ground who can shoot straight and are getting shot at.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you both another article. "Insurgents Flourish in Iraq's Wild West. U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad agree that Al Anbar province-the vast desert badlands stretching west from the cities of Fallouja and Ramadi to the lawless region abutting the Syrian border-remains the epicenter of the country's deadly insurgency. Yet U.S. troops and military officials in the embattled province said in recent interviews that they have neither enough combat power nor enough Iraqi military support to mount an effective counterinsurgency against an increasingly sophisticated enemy. ...'Basically, we've got all the toys, but not enough boys' . . . said Maj. Mark Lister, a senior Marine air officer in Al Anbar province. ... '[Commanders] can't use the word, but we're withdrawing,' said one U.S. military official in Al Anbar province ... 'Slowly, that's what we're doing.' ... Some Pentagon officials and experts in counterinsurgency warfare say the troop shortage has hamstrung the U.S. military's ability to effectively fight Iraqi insurgents. ...[a] counterinsurgency expert at the Pentagon ... said he expected it would take years to finish the job. 'If we can win this thing in six years, we're setting new land speed records,' he said."

Senator Biden, do you agree with that?

SEN. BIDEN: You've heard me say this every time on your show, Tim. Every single time I've been on your show, I said from the day we went in that we don't have enough forces, and we keep missing opportunities to enhance on that prospect. We still, at this meeting coming in Brussels, should be going to the EU and to NATO and say, "Look, take a piece of the border. Take a piece of the border. We could still come up with 3,000 to 5,000 troops." I know everybody told me that couldn't be done. Everybody's been saying that all along, but it can be done. It could have been done a year ago. It could have been done 15 months ago, but this administration has insisted at going it alone. And you see what's happening. The idea that you're going to have a counterinsurgency capability without dealing with the border, which is something that Curt Weldon's forgotten more about than I know, is absolutely ludicrous.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Weldon, there's a report in The Washington Post today that in July of 2002, Tony Blair, the prime minister of Britain, received a memo. This is before the Downing Street memo we talked about a couple weeks ago on the program, which said that little thought had been given to the protracted and costly occupation postwar. Do you think that's fair?

REP. WELDON: Well, I think what's happened, and I happen to think that the troop level right now is adequate. I was taking to the military officers at-that I did and having hearings back home and classified briefings, I agreed with Joe that originally perhaps, as General Shinseki said, we should have had more troops at the beginning. But I think what's caused the increasing problem that we're seeing is the increased activity by Syria and Iran, which, for some reason, our intelligence community does not want to acknowledge or deal with.

In fact, as we talked with the Iraqi officials and we met with the speaker of the parliament, the prime minister, the defense minister, the two generals in charge of the Iraqi military, the chairman of the constitutional writing authority, we heard a common theme, that Syria may have the largest number from outside of Iraqi country, but Iran overwhelmingly has the quality behind the insurgency. And we've got to come to grips with that. And what's startling to me is at one of our briefings at the classified level in Iraq reinforced that when one of our commanding officers looked to Iran on a map and said, "It's a black hole. We just don't have the intelligence that we need about Iran's involvement." That, to me, is absolutely outrageous.

I've been raising this issue for the past two years. Iran is a major player. Ayatollah Khomeini, not the Iranian people, because they're not the problem. Ayatollah Khomeini's the problem. And he has a separate council of nine that's been fomenting unrest in Iraq during this entire time, and that's what's increasing. That's what's increasing dramatically as we attempt to stabilize the country.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think we're in the last throes of the insurgency?

REP. WELDON: No, I don't. I think Iran is going to continue to escalate their building support so eventually, whatever government there takes hold is going to have to deal with Iran and eventually become a partner of Iran.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you both about a growing problem, and that is, how do we keep the number of troops in Iraq on the ground at that level? "After Lowering Goal, Army Fell Short on May Recruits. Even after reducing its recruiting target for May, the Army missed it by 25 percent. ...The shortfall would have been even bigger had the Army stuck to its original goal for the month. ... Just over 5,000 new recruits entered the boot camps in May. ... Last month, the Army...lowered its long-stated May goal to 6,700, down from 8,050. Compared with the original target, the Army achieved only 62.6 percent of its goal for the month, [a shortfall of 40 percent]."

Congressman Weldon, are we going to have enough Americans joining the volunteer Army to meet our deployment needs in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world?

REP. WELDON: Well, I can tell you, the morale of the troops in theater was that it always has been extremely positive. And the feeling of the Guard and Reserve leaders back here is that we've been able to meet those goals and targets consistently. The most recent numbers which you just cited are troublesome. And we're looking at that right now and seeing what we can do to put extra incentives in to encourage more people to volunteer.

You know, when you have a total-force concept, and we debated this issue in the '90s as we cut defense spending back dramatically and eliminated many of our units and our forces, we had to understand that as you deploy the troops, then you have to have Guard and Reserve combined in. And that puts an additional strain on those people and their families. So this is not something that we anticipated. But when you saw he level of deployments we had from 1990 to 2000 and now this deployment in Iraq, obviously there's a strain. We've got to come up with some solutions that will allow us to get back to the numbers that the Army and the Marines need. The other services are keeping up. The Air Force actually met its goal over the past several weeks.

MR. RUSSERT: We are considering lowering the standards to some people who don't have a high school education, some people that have a minor criminal violations. Is that the kind of volunteer Army you want?

REP. WELDON: Well, I trust our military leadership that they will, in fact, keep the standards that they've been. We have the most well-educated, well-trained force in the world today. And I trust that they will not lower the standard to the point that it will hurt the morale of those who are serving.

MR. RUSSERT: If we continue to have a 40 percent shortfall for the next year or so...

REP. WELDON: That's unacceptable. That's a problem.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you consider going back to a draft?

REP. WELDON: No. I think we need to find ways to fix the current system and to provide more incentives to keep people volunteering, and I think that's doable.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, how burdensome do you think a 40 percent shortfall will be to current deployments?

SEN. BIDEN: It is significant. But, Tim, you know, there's a-truth will be the best incentive. We should level with the American people about what has to be done in Iraq. They see a gap between not only what they're told and what they see, but they begin to think this can't be done. If the president would just level and tell the American people how hard this is going to be, the tough part's coming, this is what he needs from them, and hence sets benchmarks and comes in accountable to the United States Congress once every six months or six weeks to two months and says, "This is where we are and this is where we need to be." The American people will respond.

The problem they have now is they're beginning to think this is a black hole, they're beginning to think they're not being told the truth. And you saw for the first time, Tim, 52 percent of the American people now think that the war on terror is not being helped by our actions in Iraq. They feel no safer relative to terror because of what we're doing in Iraq. They figured it out. The president better start to just level and tell them what he needs and how much time he needs.

MR. RUSSERT: In order to continue current deployments, might we need to revert to a draft?

SEN. BIDEN: Remember during the campaign you asked me that question? And I said Kerry isn't making anything up. We're going to have to face that question. I agree with Curt. I think we can avoid it by changing the mix. But the truth of the matter is, it is going to become a subject if in fact 40 percent shortfall in recruitment. It's just a reality.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe the American people have the political will to stay the course in Iraq as it's going now for the next several years?

SEN. BIDEN: No, not as it's going now. But if the president stands up and tells them straight out, "Look, here comes the hard part, folks. We're going to write a constitution. They're going to go out and have a referendum, they're going to have an election. We've got to stay with them. It's going to take at least a year, probably two years to train up their forces. It's going to take great sacrifice. I'm asking you to help me in this effort. It's important for the following reasons." The American people will stick.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Weldon, you've had several hearings. Congressman Gene Taylor has been outspoken, you've been outspoken about the armor that's made available to our troops in Iraq. Do you believe that and now we're more than two years into the war, our troops have the armor they need to protect themselves?

REP. WELDON: They do now. And that was the primary focus of my CO-DEL. We spent two days in Balad and Fallujah and Baghdad. We visited the sites where the uparmoring is being done. We looked at the work being done by our Marines and by Army personnel, which is absolutely impressive. They feel very confident. And we talked to soldiers who had just been in attacks, how had been hit by IED devices. They also feel confident. In fact, we've been assured now that any soldier going out is protected in a level one vehicle. So they have maximum protection.

The difficulty is that the insurgency is increasing the lethality of the weapons they're using. They're now using armor piercing projectiles, so it's more difficult for us to protect our troops. But I am convinced now-I would not have said this a year ago-but I'm convinced today that we have a level of protection in terms of our equipment, our technology to deal with IEDs and our UAVs that are monitoring from above to give our troops maximum safety.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you agree with that, Senator Biden?

SEN. BIDEN: I do. But, Tim, there's one thing we're not mentioning here. And that is it's not just about the number of troops, it's about what we're doing on the ground in terms of rebuilding that country. We've got to change on the ground the ability of people not to walk out their front door into three feet of sewage. They've got to be able to change whether they're seven hours or 12 hours of electricity. These are things that relate directly to the dissatisfaction, particularly in the Sunni triangle, the willingness to hide these folks and the willingness to see our folks killed.

And we have been incompetent in the way in which we have been distributing that $18.7 billion. And if you talk to our military guys, a three-star named Webster who heads up the 3rd ID, and his predecessor, the head of the commanding general of the 1st Calvary, they said, "Give us more money to be able to go into these places and put PCV pipe in the back of the house and put the sewage in the Tigris instead of out in the middle of the street so we can begin to change the way people look at the future." That's equally as important. And we are failing miserably on that score.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the issue of Guantanamo. This is Time magazine exclusive "Detainee 063 Inside the Wire at Gitmo." They have, in fact, a log of the interrogation of this detainee. President Bush was asked: "Do you think Guantanamo should be shut down?" He said: "Well, you know, we're exploring all alternatives as to how best to do the main objective, which is to protect America." Last week, Senator Biden said we should consider closing down Gitmo, have a commission look into it. Now, Republican Senator Mel Martinez, of Florida, said we should close it down. What do you think?

REP. WELDON: I think Senator Specter has it right. He's called for additional hearings. I've called for additional hearings in the House. We need to look at this issue thoroughly, both in open and closed session, and then do as the president has said: come to a final determination as to whether or not this facility has, in fact, lost its viability. I can't answer that question today. I do feel that we have to protect America's interests, as the president has said, but I think the Congress has to look at it thoroughly.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden?

SEN. BIDEN: Status quo is dangerous, Tim. The first bill I introduced this year in January called for setting up that commission. We're now going to be holding hearings on it. We need a political consensus. We have to show the rest of the world we understand how difficult it is and we're trying to figure out how to deal with it, but we should move expeditiously. We should get that commission set up, get a recommendation in a couple months, and move.

MR. RUSSERT: But, Congressman Weldon, you have a new book, "Countdown to Terror: The Top- Secret Information That Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America and How the CIA Has Ignored It." You write on page one, "This book is an act of desperation. I bring it before you, the reader, because I could not get our intelligence community to act on it, though my source has proven his credibility, and though the information he provides predicts a major terrorist attack against the United States."

Now, the CIA and former members of it are hopping mad about your allegations. This was from Thursday's New York Times: "Mr. Weldon's allegations have infuriated CIA officials, including a veteran case officer who said he had met with the congressman's source four times in Paris. 'He's never given us any information that was the slightest bit credible,' said Bill Murray, the CIA station chief in Paris when he met Mr. Weldon's source, an elderly Iranian who once served in the government of the shah of Iran. 'This guy was a waste of my time and resources.'"

Your response.

REP. WELDON: Well, it's interesting that the CIA is able to spin things that up until now have been classified, but yet when I called the CIA on Thursday and talked to Porter Goss' chief of staff, I asked them to release a classified two-page letter that they sent me on June 15 of 2004. That letter was an official response by the CIA to me of the informant that I had given them. And that letter ended with, "We welcome further information from Ali."

Now, if we follow the words of this former employee, who I assume had the permission of the CIA to speak or he wouldn't have been allowed to speak, then how could he say that my source lied and that it wasn't valid if, in fact, they were welcoming me and asking me to encourage him to provide more information for them? I think the CIA's been caught, and I want the CIA to release that letter. I have the letter. When I called over to the CIA on Thursday, they couldn't find it. I have the letter. I gave them the documentation. Let the American people judge for themselves. Let them see whether or not what the spin master for the CIA is saying is really jiving with the letter they sent me last year about my source.

MR. RUSSERT: You talk about-and here we get to The New York Times on Thursday: "Mr. Weldon's strongest argument is Ali's report from May 17, 2003, that Iran planned to hijack an airplane in Canada and strike a nuclear reactor in the United States whose name began 'Sea.' Mr. Weldon said the plant was later identified as Seabrook Station in New Hampshire. He contended that the August 2003 arrest of 19 Muslim men in Toronto on vague suspicions of terrorism proved the prediction was correct. The congressman said the arrests might have prevented the deaths of 'hundreds of thousands' of Americans. But Canadian officials later dropped all security-related charges against the men, leaving only routine immigration charges. And Alan Griffith, a spokesman for the Seabrook nuclear plant, said the alleged plot 'was never deemed a credible threat' by federal officials."

REP. WELDON: Well, that, again, differs with the meeting I had on January 26 in my office with two members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the governor's representative for security, the intelligence officer for New Hampshire. They, in fact, told me that the first day that they were informed of the credible threat to Seabrook was on November the 24th. That was the exact day that my informant told me that the reactor was going to be hit.

You know, Tim, this gets down to whether or not we're going to allow the CIA to be totally trusted. There are good agents in the CIA, doing great work. My book's dedicated to them. But they failed in 1992 when the highest-ranking-ever KGB defector, Vasily Mitrokhin, wanted to defect to the U.S. The CIA said, "We don't need him." His information, which was picked up by the British-he became a person who lived in Britain till his death last year-was a treasure trove of information about the Soviet KGB.

The CIA doesn't have a good record. They failed to predict 9/11. They failed to understand North Korea had a three-stage missile before it was launched in 1998. They were wrong on the National Intelligence Estimate, 95, 19, about the threat of long-range missile attack against us. And they've ignored Able Danger, the Special Forces command's secret project against al-Qaeda that ran in '99 and 2000, which CIA officials I've talked to said they weren't even aware of.

There are a lot of things that need to be looked at. That's the role of the Congress, and I'm going to play that role, because in the end my job-I have to sit in the living room with those young people's families who come home in body bags. I am never going to give that responsibility up to some pencil pusher. I'm going to push the process until we in the Congress get the legitimate answers that the people want us to get.

MR. RUSSERT: One of the legitimate issues raised about Iraq, however, was: Was the information given to us about weapons of mass destruction credible and accurate? The American Prospect, a liberal magazine, has been reading your book and analyzing it and talking to people. "The Prospect has learned that the true identity of 'Ali' is Fereidoun Mahdavi, formerly the shah's minister of commerce and, more importantly, the close friend and business partner of Ghorbanifar, legendary arms dealer, infamous intelligence fabricator, and central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal that almost brought down the Reagan administration. It was 'Gorba,' as he was known back then to Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, the rouge National Security Council officer, who lured the Reagan administration into secretly selling U.S. missiles to the Islamic regime in exchange for the release of Western hostages. ... 'Mahdavi says that he has this network in Iran that he gets information from,' says Akbar Etemad [a former minister in the shah's government.] 'Each time, he says his information will come true in two months' time. But all that information is fake. Ghorbanifar and Mahdavi work very closely together. Ghorbanifar is unreliable. In that sense, he might be dangerous. The CIA shares that harsh assessment of Ghorbanifar. If the intelligence had any clue to Mahdavi's association with Ghorbanifar, it is scarcely surprising that its officials rebuffed Weldon's overtures on behalf of 'Ali.' Many years ago, the CIA issued an unusual 'burn notice' on Ghorbanifar, instructing its personnel not to deal with him and warning that he was known to spread false information to advance his own interests."

REP. WELDON: Well, the CIA created Ghorbanifar, so they don't have to come to me about that. They have to look internally. The CIA created Chalabi. Those are creations of the CIA. I'm not asking them to create anyone. My source is Ali, and it's more the process that we need to have to be able to have the CIA come back and tell us, "Give us the backup of your information. If Ali's lying, show me where he's lying." That's not what their memo last June said to me.

And so all I want to do is make sure that we're properly testing the agency, because I lost some good friends on 9/11. One of the pilots in one of those planes, wife and two kids still live in my district five miles from me. She teaches school. Her two kids, we built a playground in his honor. I have a very good friend, Ray Downing, who was the fire chief of all rescue on 9/11. He was killed. I'm not going to take a back seat. We're going to prevent the next terrorist attack only by aggressively challenging our intelligence community. Porter Goss is doing that. Porter Goss needs support. We need to change the way we do red teaming, group think, as Jim Woolsey has said and he endorsed my book, so did Jack Caravelli, a 20-year veteran of the CIA. They understand. If it makes some people feel some heartburn, so be it. That's my job.

MR. RUSSERT: One more point on the book. "'Many information that I have given to Weldon is coming from Ghorbanifar,' said [Fereidoun] Mahdavi, who was reached in Paris by telephone on June 6. 'Because Ghorbanifar used me, in fact, to pass that stuff because I know he has problems in Washington.' ... 'Someone is using me for their purpose,' he raged. 'How is it possible that something like that book comes out and the people who publish it don't inform me?'"

REP. WELDON: Well, Ali knew what was happening. I'm not even confirming who Ali was, but Ali knew what we were doing clearly. What his association with Ghorbanifar, I have no idea, but I can tell you every Iranian in exile in Paris knows Ghorbanifar. Ghorbanifar has been at this since the CIA first graded him. The CIA is clearly embarrassed over Ghorbanifar. They told me that and clearly they think he's a liar and he may be, but I'm not asking the way of that information.

The information I gave the CIA has been proven to be true. We gave them a series of actions in every case. When they say he was getting it from open sources, we did a search through the Congressional Research Service of all those allegations and predictions. In every case, I gave the information to the CIA before any media worldwide reported it. I think that's worthy of further investigation.

MR. RUSSERT: The CIA says that Ali asked for $150,000 which they refused to give him.

REP. WELDON: Well, I wouldn't give him any money. That's not the goal. The goal is to research and see whether or not-the CIA has wasted more than $150,000 on routine payments they make on a regular basis around the world. What I want is the system tested. They could have come back to me and they could have said, "This is the reason why we think the information you've been given is invalid." They haven't done that. The only letter I got a year ago, two pages, which the CIA is refusing to release and I asked for it for this show and they refused to release it, says that the CIA still wants information from Ali. Now, why would they want information from someone who they say is fabricator? It doesn't make sense to me.

MR. RUSSERT: Will Ali share in the profits of this book?

REP. WELDON: The profits? There will be no profits to the book, but Ali will-I will take care of whatever needs he has including his family in Iran that I've told him I would assist in getting them out.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, do you think the policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran?

SEN. BIDEN: No, I think that's a hope. I'd love to see the regime change, but I think the policy should be: How do we prevent them from getting nuclear weapons? How do we prevent them from moving forward in missile technology and how do we prevent them from becoming the kind of irritant and trouble in Iran-I mean, excuse me, in Iraq. That should be the policy. And it seems to me in order to do that, you have to deal with them. It's going to be a tough, tough, tough negotiation, but we have to get in the game. We have to actually engage them.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think our policy should be regime change?

REP. WELDON: No. I call specifically for no war against Iran. The problem is not the Iranian people. It's not even the Iranian government. It Ayatollah Khomeini, his radical religious extremism. He set up a council of nine. They're the problem.

The strategy we need is one to have Iran come back to its senses. And what I've put forth to the Bush administration is a four-part strategy to have Vladimir Putin play a more aggressive role. Russia has the closest relationship with Iran, and that's where our efforts should be, to get Russia to play that role. Right now we don't have that kind of relationship with Russia, and that's where we should focus our efforts and that then can benefit us whether it's dealing with the Bushar nuclear power plan or Iran's involvement to Ayatollah Khomeini and extremist.

Watch the vote carefully in this upcoming election in Iraq. The last time around we had an election, only 9 percent of the people voted. The people of Iran, they're good people. They're decent people. They're not the ones causing this problem. It's Ayatollah Khomeini and we have to understand that and we ought to be having a strategy that deals with that problems effectively and substantively.

MR. RUSSERT: Ali said that Osama bin Laden is in Iraq-in Iran, excuse me.

REP. WELDON: He's been in Iran, and now we have military generals telling us that. Interestingly enough, the CIA totally refuted that when I first went to them. And by the way, the person who gave me this entire lead was a former Democrat member of Congress.

MR. RUSSERT: Can you believe that Osama bin Laden is in Iran today?

REP. WELDON: Today, I don't know. I gave the CIA hits over the past five months that he was there twice, and I also told them two years ago he was in a small town in a southern part of Iran called Ladiz, 10 kilometers inside the border with Pakistan in Baluchistan. I'd say he's been in and out repeatedly.

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Curt Weldon, Senator Joe Biden, thank you very much for updating us on a very difficult issue.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Tim.

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