MATTHEWS: Senator Chambliss, what do you make of this confluence right now? We're going to war with Iraq, apparently in the next couple of weeks, perhaps three weeks, at the same time we've got bin Laden coming out of his hole and threatening us and trying to turn this into a religious war, I guess, even though we're fighting a secular government. What kind of pressure does this put on us?
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), INTELLIGENCE CMTE.: Well, Chris, it just shows what a complex issue this is and how sophisticated the terrorist community is. I mean, I think Director Mueller is exactly right. There are a number of terrorist cells in the United States. The ones that are most dangerous are the ones we don't know about obviously.
We know there's a direct al Qaeda connection with Iraq. We know that they are operating openly. They even have a training camp up in northern Iraq. So, it is a very, very complex situation, but you know what we have to do is we have to fight this war on all fronts. We have to continue our battle against al Qaeda domestically and abroad. We also have to consider the expansion of the conflict into Iraq, if force is necessary, to remove weapons of mass destruction from a terrorist.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that attacking Iraq is going to any way hurt the operation of al Qaeda? Senator Chambliss?
CHAMBLISS: Well I don't know that it's going to have a direct impact on al Qaeda from the standpoint of taking out some of their operatives. There are certainly are a number of them there, but whether it will hurt them there or not, I don't know. But I tell you what it will do Chris. It will remove one more source of weapons of mass destruction from potentially getting into the hands of al Qaeda. We know that if they have the chance to get those weapons they'll do it. So it just removes another source from them.
MATTHEWS: Senator Shelby, we have only so much resources in this country. Every time a Democrat tries to encourage a new program, a Republican comes along and says which program are we willing to cut. But here we are fighting a $200-billion war against Iraq. Shouldn't we be spending that money stopping this guy, Bin laden, who popped up again today and threatens our country, not just the region he's from.
SHELBY: I think we're going to have to do both. I believe the situation in the Persian Gulf with Iraq is going to come to a head soon, and one way or the other, but the war with the terrorists is going to go on, Chris. It might go on 30 years.
I'll tell you what I am worry about, when you're talking about terrorists, I'm concerned about the surface-to-air missiles. There are about 50,000 around the world. We've got a lot of stingers out there unaccounted for. We got close to a real disaster in Kenya several...
SHELBY: ... weeksmonths ago.
MATTHEWS: Senator Schumer, your thoughts on that?
SCHUMER: Yes, well I've introduced legislation, along with Senator Boxer or Congressman Steve Israel that would equip every one of our commercial airliners with the anti-stinger, anti-shoulder head missile technology that's on all our military planes. It's easy to do.
It would take about a week to do per plane so they wouldn't be out of action long. It costs about $1 million per plane, and when you think that one of these new airliners cost 100 million, that's not a great expense, and we should do it. You know...
MATTHEWS: Are they workable? Are they a sure thing? Can you stop...
MATTHEWS: ... a stinger...
SCHUMER: They're onwell...
MATTHEWS: ... a stinger from hitting your plane with one of these?
SCHUMER: Yes, you can. It works in the military and, in fact, El Al, which is an airline we try to emulate when it comes to fighting terrorism because they've been on the front lines, has it on every one of their commercial airliners right now, and we shouldn't waste a minute before doing this because this is oneDick Shelby is exactly right. This is one of the greatest dangers we face.
We know al Qaeda has these. We know lots of other terrorist groups have these and God forbid that they succeed in shooting down one of our commercial planes...
MATTHEWS: Well, who's going to stop you, Senator, from doing what you want to do right now? Who's going to stop you from putting that...
MATTHEWS: ... equipment on the planes?
SCHUMER: ... here's the problem and you know, I don't agree with those whoI agree with Saxby here. We can fight the war in Iraq and fight al Qaeda, and I think the Bush administration has been doing a good job against al Qaeda. I've never heard anyone say what they should be doing, but they're not.
The place I have some criticism of the administration is that we're not doing enough on the home front mainly because we don't want to spend all the dollars that are necessary, and that's what would stop us here. People would say yes, it's a good idea, but it's about $4 billion each for two years, and we can't afford to do that. We'll do it after, God forbid, one of these incidents happen. We ought to do it now.
MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at the latest pollthis is a Gallup poll that came out just today. Only about 29 percent of the people feel that we have a greatthey have a great deal of confidence that the United States can protect them from future attacks. Senator Shelby, less than a third of the people are confident the government can protect them.
MATTHEWS: And that's, by the way, going down since September 14, after the attack.
SHELBY: I believe the American people realize that we will be subject to terrorist attacks in the future. The problem and our greatest challenge is how do we break them up before they happen. I'm going to submit one thing to you. The key to all of this is
tracing the money. Without the money, the terrorists cannot live, they cannot buy equipment, they cannot move. If we can ever get into the money trail in a big, big way, which we haven't, that could help solve our problems with terrorism.
MATTHEWS: Well let me ask you all, do you play offense or defense here? I mean, I could make a list here, I'll probably get in trouble for this, but I can think of cruise ships, I can think of bridges, I can think of tunnels, of subways.
MATTHEWS: The numbers of times Americans are exposed to easy attack are innumerable. You can't defend all of them, can you Senator?
SHELBY: No, we can't defend them all. We can cut down the margin, we can reduce the perimeter, but we live in an open society, but we can win this war without making a fortress out of America.
MATTHEWS: Can you...
MATTHEWS: ... Senator Schumer, I've got to ask Senator Schumer this question because you represent such a big city, the metropolis of all time. Is it possible to just play defense in this war or do have you to reduce the hatred on the other side, the hostility, the recruitment, the money, there are so many places you have to hit at the other end of the tunnel?
SCHUMER: You know, Chris, we're in a brave new world, and we're not going to solve every problem at once. But you have to play both offense and defense. On offense I think we're doing pretty well and I've been generally supportive of the president on offense. On defense, we're not close to doing enough and as you say, there are so many places to go we ought to get a quicker start on a whole lot of them.
MATTHEWS: Senator Saxby, is this a matter of money? You talk about $1 million per airplane to equip planes with the anti-stinger, anti-SAM equipment. You talk about $200 billion for this war. Is there enough money to play offense and defense?
CHAMBLISS: Well obviously that's the problem, Chris. You have to decide where to commit your resources. I certainly agree with the concept that Chuck has, and I don't disagree that this is something that we ought to look very, very seriously at. But it's a question of do you commit the resources here?
Do you commit the resources to local law enforcement officials who are screaming and hollering right now about they don't have enough funding to be on the lookout when we raised the terrorist threat level? There are just so many areas...
CHAMBLISS: ... out there that we're going to have to prioritize and...
MATTHEWS: Let's come back and talk about that.
Up next, will America be safer after an attack on Iraq? We'll ask the senators when we come back.
And later, the HARDBALL debate. Is President Bush's tough talk appropriate for the times or is it dangerous in its simplicity?
MATTHEWS: In today's "Washington Times" former CIA counterterrorism official Vincent Cannistraro said, "The new terror alert is specifically related to the impending hostilities with Iraq. Al Qaeda plans to take advantage of an attack to enlist the support of radical Muslims and foster any American hostilities." Senator Chambliss, it seems like that's what bin Laden did today, try to use this attack on Iraq as an opportunity to stir terrorism against us.
CHAMBLISS: Well, I think it's just another excuse on their part to try to find a soft target in America. They think if we're concentrating on Iraq we may be a little lax on something over here and that's why it's important from a federal level, as well as from a state and local level that we remain on an alert through this crisis and we'll do that. We're disrupted and interrupting today better than we ever have. We're still vulnerable. We still got a lot of soft spots out there...
CHAMBLISS: ... so we've got to tighten up as much as we can.