SHOW: LOU DOBBS TONIGHT 18:00
HEADLINE: Colin Powell Visits Iraq; Kerry-Edwards Begins Campaign Tour In Pennsylvania
GUESTS: Karen Tumulty, Rush Holt, Jim Ellis, Roger Simon
BYLINE: Pitty Pilgrim, Ed Henry, Kathleen Koch, Elaine Quijano, Matthew Chance, Bill Schneider, Christine Romans, Jim Boulden, Bill Tucker, Lisa Sylvester
Tonight, the chairman of the September 11 commission says government reorganization alone will not be enough to prevent another terrorist attack. President Bush goes on the offensive against the Democrats and Senator John Kerry. In "Middle Class Squeeze," the future of Social Security. An issue many political candidates would rather avoid.
PILGRIM: The September 11 commission wants a massive overhaul of our intelligence community to protect this country from another terrorist attack. And today, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee became the first congressional panel to hold a hearing on intelligence reforms.
Now, tonight, I'm joined by two leading members of that committee. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota. And thank you, gentlemen, for joining us.
SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER, ® PENNSYLVANIA: Glad to be with you.
PILGRIM: Senator Specter, let me start with you. Senator Lieberman, who's the ranking Democrat on your committee, suggested that the role of national intelligence director could be created in the next six months. Do you think that's a realistic time frame?
SPECTER: I think it is realistic, because we are now living under the threat of an attack from al Qaeda. We've had the director of the FBI and the Secretary of Homeland Defense (sic) say we can expect it between now and Election Day. So that's very, very ominous.
We have had the Senate Intelligence Committee talk about the failures of intelligence as to Iraq and now the 9/11 commission has told us-repeated something we have known for a long time. And that is, that if you have all of the intelligence agencies so that it's under one umbrella, we might well have prevented 9/11.
So I think that there's a real sense of urgency. And we went back from recess today, back to Washington, and I think it's something we can do relatively promptly.
We've got a lot of experience in the field. And I think it's doable to have it done yet this year.
PILGRIM: An accelerated timetable. Senator Dayton, the House leadership has announced they will hold-at least six committees, will hold about 15 hearings during August. What's the purpose of these hearings? And when you hear the word hearings, it doesn't really suggest movement. Do you think much will be accomplished in these hearings?
SENATOR MARK DAYTON, (D) DELAWARE: Well, I can't speak for the House but in the Senate, we have Armed Services which I sit on, and also Government Affairs, and Susan Collins the Senator from Maine who chairs the Government Affairs deserves a lot of credit for getting us back here right away. And I think we will act on it, as Senator Specter said.
I'm very concerned about what the commission's report shows about the operational deficiencies on 9/11. The FAA, NORAD, the National Defense failed in serious respects, and then somebody seriously misrepresented the facts a week later to try to cover up the failures. That's what we need to get a handle on operationally so it doesn't happen again.
PILGRIM: What would be your main focus? The intelligence overhaul, what's your main concern personally?
DAYTON: Well, I'd want to do what's best for the country in terms of the balance between consolidation so we have coordination and communication but also so it's not a monolithic one view for everything.
But I'm even more concerned about the operational side, because no matter how good our intelligence, no matter how good our organization, if people don't function in a crisis, then we're not going to be effective.
PILGRIM: You know, Senator Susan Collins who's the chairwoman of the committee has said that the national intelligence director is a sound idea. Do you think President Bush would support this kind of a structure?
SPECTER: I think that it's very likely that the President will. He has been cautious, studying the situation. But the idea of having somebody in overall control has been with us for some time. Senator Lieberman and I introduced the Homeland Security Bill 30 days after 9/11. And we tried very hard with the creation of a new cabinet officer to have under the new secretary the authority to direct. And that has been resisted, because of the turf struggles and the institutional objections made by CIA, FBI and the Department of Defense.
But we have seen repeatedly evidence of their cultures of concealment. And I think the need is pretty plain. And my instinct is, the President is obviously going to have to speak for himself, but I think the evidence is sufficient to warrant having this national director.
PILGRIM: Let me ask you this: the chairmen of the 9/11 commission, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton said yesterday they were going to seek private charitable donations to continue the work on the commission. What are your views on this? Do you think this is constructive? Is this to leave out the potential-keep it independent? Let me ask you, Senator Dayton.
DAYTON: If there's concern on their part about necessary independence, we ought to provide that. They performed an enormous service to our nation and we ought to pay for it out of public funds and they ought to have complete authority and complete freedom from any funding source.
PILGRIM: And yet, there's this road show that's beginning that will conceivably generate some support. What's your view, Senator Specter?
SPECTER: Oh, I don't think they need to go on the road. They can just stay in Washington. They had made the point that they were prepared to travel the country. But that's not necessary.
You have hearings which are under way. The Congress has responded by cutting into the recess, which is what we should have done. The leaders, Senator Frist, Senator Daschle, have asked for a bill by the end of September. I think that is realistic. And wait and see, Kitty, I think you may find the Congress in session during October.
When we're under a threat of attack from al Qaeda, between now and November 2, I believe you're going to see very, very substantial, concerted action. So the commission doesn't have to go around with a tin cup and travel the country. The Congress is going to take care of this.
PILGRIM: Well, gentlemen, we commend you on your efforts and wish you every success. Senator Specter and Senator Dayton, thank you for joining us tonight.
SPECTER: Nice being with you. Thank you, Kitty.