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Special Report Roundtable - July 26

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

REP PETE HOEKSTRA, (R) MICHIGAN: The Director of National Intelligence is telling us we are missing vital intelligence that our nation should be collecting to protect our homeland--foreign intelligence from foreign terrorists in foreign countries, and we can't collect it.

REP ANNA ESHOO, (D) CALIFORNIA REPRESENTATIVE: We owe more to the American people than just trying to scare the hell out of them, and say after all of the expenditure of life and limb, and the investment that the American people are now making, $10 billion a month in Iraq alone, that we are blind.

HUME: But that is, in effect, what the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said in a letter today to the Chairman of House Intelligence Committee, in which he said because of the changes in technology, the old law governing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act makes it impossible to listen in on phone calls, certain phone calls, between foreign terrorists in foreign countries, speaking to each other.

Because some of these calls are now, because of the complex systems we use, are routed through American lines, or through America. And therefore, they fall under the purview of the law, and you have to run out and get a warrant. He says it is leaving us blind, and it urgently needs attention.

Some thoughts on this issue now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of the Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and Mort Kondrake, Executive Editor of Roll Call, FOX News contributors all.

So, question--does the DNI have a point? And how does Congress seem to be responding to this? Mort?

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: It strikes me that this is about as close to a no-brainer as you can get, if the Democratic Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says that this is something that the president ought to do on his own authority.

However, in the old days, when the president did something on his own authority, the Democrats screamed bloody murder, and said, you know, people are talking about censuring for that kind of thing. So now he is trying to go through Congress and get legal authority to do what he wants to do.

They ought to give it to him with dispatch. I mean, they could hold hearings, they could pass a bill. They could do it overnight if they had to.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, Serias is the head of the House Intelligence Committee wrote this letter that says that he doesn't even believe FISA requires a warrant for these kind of communications, foreign terrorist--

HUME: You mean Mitch McConnell, or Sylvester Reyes?

LIASSON: McConnell says we need the law changed in order to do this. Reyes says no. But he also went further. He said look, if clarification of the law are necessary, we are prepared to deal with this. He is committed to working on developing a targeted solution as an interim measure.

And, in the meantime, the president should use his authority, which he has claimed over and over again that he has.

HUME: And Congress has repeated insisted that he does not have.

LIASSON: I think when you get a letter from a Democratic Committee chairman saying look, we are with you on this, you know--

HUME: We, or I?

LIASSON: Well, he is. And the only question is, do they need the law changed to do this. And if so, how fast is this law going to be changed?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: I will have to go along with McConnell on how fast they need a change--he says it is urgent.

And Brit, I don't think it is just phone calls, it's emails as well that get routed through the United States. And that is, certainly, a form of communication.

Look, if this is fine with Reyes, then he should have no problem with changing the law that covers here so it will make it explicit, what Reyes has said, that the president has the authority to do this without getting a warrant.

I mean, why don't you want to get a warrant? Because it takes some team. You have to show probable cause.

HUME: But you have to show probable cause, and that relates to probable cause of a crime being committed in violation of American law.

BARNES: Exactly. When you had that sound bite from Ann Eshoo, you can see that there is among many, many Democrats, there is a completely different view of terrorists than there is inside the administration, and, obviously, with McConnell.

And they don't view the war on terror as something that is all that critical, that the terror threat is as great. They want to shut down Guantanamo, they want to give the prisoners there, the terrorists, they want to give them all the rights that criminals in U.S. courts would have.

They don't like at all the president's doing any sort of surveillance that might involve American citizens without a court order, even though they are dealing with--those citizens might be in a phone call with somebody with al-Quida, or something.

This is just a completely different view, and you see it in the lack of urgency on the part of the Democratic Congress enacting.

KONDRAKE: This ought not to be a partisan issue. And I think Reyes statements indicate that he doesn't want to make it a partisan issue. And they ought to work this out as fast as they can.

HUME: This is not the first time this has been requested, though. And Reyes' committee hasn't done anything.

KONDRAKE: And the Republicans are raising the roof, and saying that this ought to be done. And they have had to make a public case out of it. This shouldn't be.

I mean, Usama bin-Laden does not care whether somebody is a Republican or a Democrat before he beheads them. And this is a threat that we face in common, Republicans and Democrats, and they ought to do what is necessary to combat it.

BARNES: Well, they certainly have enough time to deal with Attorney General Gonzalez and all he did or didn't do as the president was exercising the right he has clearly to name and fire U.S. attorneys.

HUME: We are going to come up with that next. So let's take a break here panel. Democrats call for a special council, or prosecutor, to investigate alleged perjury by Attorney General Gonzalez. We will talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are asking the Solicitor General to appoint a special council to investigate potential perjury by the Attorney General. Earlier this week Attorney General Gonzalez testified before the judiciary committee, and his inability to answer simple and straightforward questions was just stunning.

HUME: Some Republicans would agree with that last assessment about Attorney General Gonzalez's ability to answer questions in a simple and straight forward way. However, the question is, has he committed perjury? And if he has, or is alleged to have done so, would it be wise for the Solicitor General who is next in command, and therefore, because, obviously, Gonzalez wouldn't be ruling on whether a counsel would be appointed to investigate him, would it be wise for the Solicitor General to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate?

Fred?

BARNES: Well, in the first place, they are not going to name one. The boss of the Solicitor General is President Bush, and he is not, particularly after the bad expense about the last special prosecutor, and they are a bad idea in the first place.

HUME: Do we know this, or do we just sense this?

BARNES: I sense it. But I sense it strongly, let me put it that way.

There are three areas that were cited in the letter that Schumer and these three others Democrats sent to the Justice Department. And a couple of them are kind of fuzzy, and whether they were discussed at a meeting, some other intelligence program, and what happened at a meeting when Gonzalez was at an aide, who was saying she wanted a transfer, and what they said about the U.S. attorneys' firing, and so one. It's all fuzzy.

There is certainly nothing in any of these charges that is clear perjury. It does show you, though, with the hair trigger suddenness in which they are demanding a special prosecutor, criminalizing the whole U.S. attorneys affair, or at least attempting to, it shows you what Democrats are up to, and why they will jump on any discrepancy, and then try to criminalize that, and get a special prosecutor, or something, to carry out a prosecution.

I mean, this should be more evidence for people like Karl Rove and Harriet Miers and others who have refused to testify under oath why they are correct in doing that.

LIASSON: I agree with Fred. There is not going to be a special prosecutor appointed in this. And we have had a bizarre standoff where Gonzalez has probably lost the confidence of almost everyone. As you said, there are few Republicans who would say they still have confidence in him yet, because he really answers to only one person, he is still there.

And so you have got this weird standoff. And what are the Democrats options to escalate this? Not much except for what they did today, calling for a special prosecutor. There is nothing they can do to get rid of him except for continue to have him up for hearings, and get him all snarled up, as he is so happy it oblige them, with his answers.

But I think the standoff will continue until the end of term.

KONDRAKE: Schumer clearly, as Senator Specter said, was acting precipitously and politically.

LIASSON: And Specter is no fan of Gonzalez.

KONDRAKE: Exactly. But what I think is interesting is there is a conflict between, apparently, Gonzalez and the Director of the FBI, who said that the program discussed wasn't--an NSA program that had been much discussed, that seems to be the terrorist surveillance program, which Gonzalez saying no, no, I wasn't talking about that, I was talking about another program.

Now, there is one other point that very few people have raised, and that is--

HUME: Do you think that is perjury?

KONDRAKE: I don't know whether it is purge or not. I don't think there ought to be a special prosecutor appointed, I think there ought to be a clear examination of the record, and lots of closed door testimony--

HUME: But it is all this classified stuff, right?

KONDRAKE: That brings up another point. Back in 2004, there was a program, and it sounds like it was not the terrorist surveillance program, that was so controversial in the Justice Department that the Deputy Attorney General threatened to resign. They could not get the Attorney General to sign off on it, and it sounds as though even the Director of the FBI had his doubts about it.

Now, these are not pussy cats, these are not ACLU types, right? So something that the administration wanted to do was over the line.

I don't want to know what it was, because it is still highly classified, but somebody ought to want to know what it was, and be a check on the--

BARNES: Yes, but that doesn't substantiate a perjury charge.

KONDRAKE: It does not.

BARNES: The word for this is "confusion," not "perjury."

HUME: And I think we would all agree that confusion is something to which the Attorney General seems subject.

KONDRAKE: Indeed.

HUME: And that's it for the panel.

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