THE SITUATION ROOM
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
BLITZER: The president's very satisfied. What about you, Senator Biden?
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, you know, my mom has an expression. She said when I was a kid, "Joey, sometimes you're your own worst enemy."
You know, the irony is if -- I think the vast majority of Americans, including me, feel a sense of empathy and sympathy for both Cheney and his good friend who got shot. But the way they're going about this thing just sort of reinforces this whole notion that this administration, particularly this vice president is incredibly secretive about everything. You know, he's turned in a personal tragedy, which he'd get great empathy from the vast majority of Americans, into something that it didn't have to be.
BLITZER: Is he a liability to this president?
BIDEN: Well obviously the president makes that judgment. I think a lot of people have lost faith in Mr. Cheney, not because of this particular accident, but because he seems to sort of set himself apart and by a different standard than other vice presidents and presidents, for that matter have. And as things are kind of not going all that well in Iraq and not going all that well in other parts of the world with Iran and with Korea, I'm not sure that he helps the president much.
BLITZER: Do you want the vice president to have a full-scale news conference and answer questions, maybe more on this issue but on a wide range of other issues, including what's happening in Iraq in terms of domestic surveillance and other issue that have come and the CIA leak investigation, the loss of his former chief-of-staff, Lewis Scooter Libby who was criminally indicted.
BIDEN: Ordinarily you wouldn't want a vice president to do that. But it appears again, appearances -- it appears the vice president is a major, major, major policymaker within this administration. And so you kind of want to go to the horse's mouth, you want to go to the person who's credited and/or has the responsibility for the policy. And in the case of -- I'd like to know, for example, did he authorize Scooter Libby to take on what otherwise was classified information. Did he on the spot de-classify it in order to make a political point about the war in Iraq? I mean, its those selective kind of judgments where he seems to -- he kind of acts, Wolf, like there's a law and a rule for all the rest of us but for him they don't apply.
BLITZER: But in fairness to the vice president, Senator, he says that the executive order that was signed a few years back, gives not only a president, but also a vice president the right and the authority to declassify information.
BIDEN: By the way, it does. All he has to do is say I authorize declassification. That's all. I mean, and then why did he authorize it to be declassified? It's OK. I mean, look, as you know, you are one of the most seasoned reporters in all this country.
You know that 75 percent -- I won't say. I believe you know that a significant portion of the so-called leaks of information that's classified come out of the administrations, Democrat and Republican. The fact is there is this aura as to whether or not classified information before the war and after the war was selectively used to give an impression that was incorrect.
And now you have Scooter Libby saying that the vice president, who as my staff tells me, five days after we invaded Iraq was given the power to declassify and he does have that power. Apparently after that point gave Scooter Libby the authority to, I guess, selectively declassify. And so did he do that? That's the first thing. And why did he do it?
BLITZER: Senator, only a few moments ago, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- you're not a member of that committee, you're on Foreign Relations and Judiciary -- but Senator Pat Roberts spoke out about the NSA surveillance program announcing what some would regard as an important breakthrough in Congressional oversight. Listen to this.
BLITZER: The senator goes on in a clip that we didn't broadcast there but we're going to cue that up. He goes on to announce what he says is a new arrangement he seems to be working out with the White House. But what do you make of his decision to avoid the kind of hearings that Senator Rockefeller, other Democrats, even a few Republicans, would like to have right now on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
BIDEN: I was on that committee 10 years. I was a co-sponsor of the FISA law. I was part of the investigation on the Intelligence Committee years ago that created FISA. The reason we held extensive hearings back then in the Intelligence Committee, in secret, is so we could find out whether or not what the administration was asking us to give them the power to do in secret -- in a secret FISA court -- was justified.
We concluded it was. Then we went to the Judiciary Committee, which I also served on, and we passed the appropriate law. The idea that for 52 months the administration could be eavesdropping and assuming it's only terrorists, that's just great.
But Eavesdropping and only informing two people on the Intelligence Committee and nobody else in that secret committee knowing what was going on and that was the design of the committee is absolutely preposterous. The motions that the Chairman Roberts says, quote, "it would be detrimental to hold a hearing in secret."
Now, the only thing he can mean by that is he assumes someone on that committee would violate the law and leak the information. I hope to the Lord that's not true. And so I don't quite understand, Wolf. I don't know -- none of the members of that committee but two know who, in fact, is being eavesdropped upon.
What is being done with the information that is garnered from people who accidentally are eavesdropped on? How many arrests have resulted from that? What is the program working? And there's no way of knowing that, Wolf, unless you bring the administration before that secret committee in secret and say, guys, tell us what the deal is, and tell us what you need.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, Senator, we have got to leave it there. But thanks very much for joining us.
BIDEN: Thank you very much for having me.