Eric Holder and Rudy Giuliani on "This Week"

Eric Holder and Rudy Giuliani on "This Week"

By This Week - May 9, 2010

TAPPER: Good morning, and a happy Mother's Day to all the moms watching. We'll begin with a Sunday first, Attorney General Eric Holder. Welcome to "This Week."

HOLDER: It's good to be here.

TAPPER: Well, let's start with the latest on the investigation into the failed Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad. What's the latest?

HOLDER: Well, we've now developed evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack. We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they probably helped finance it and that he was working at their direction.

TAPPER: Is there any evidence that there's a cell that Shahzad was working with in the United States? Or was it just him operating from directions from Pakistan?

HOLDER: All I can really say is that the investigation is ongoing and we are examining overseas connections that he might have, as well as any people he might have worked with here in the United States. But the investigation's ongoing in both those spheres.

TAPPER: In the last few days, U.S. officials have met with Pakistani officials, and the message, as conveyed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on "60 Minutes" is this.


CLINTON: We want more. We expect more. We've made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.


TAPPER: What would those consequences be? And what more do you need the Pakistanis to be doing, the Pakistani government, beyond increased military action in North Waziristan, where the Pakistani Taliban is primarily located?

HOLDER: Well, in connection with the Shahzad investigation, they had been, I think, extremely aggressive, they've been cooperative with us, and I think we have been satisfied with the work that they have done. We want to make sure that kind of cooperation continues. To the extent that it does not, we will, as Secretary Clinton indicated, take the appropriate steps. But as of now, with regard to Shahzad, I think we're satisfied with the level of cooperation we've received.

TAPPER: Did the Pakistani government know about Shahzad before this happened? And did they tell the U.S. government at all anything about that?

HOLDER: We don't have any indication that the Pakistani government was aware of his plans or the attack that was planned by the Pakistani Taliban. We don't have any indication of that.

TAPPER: OK, Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud of the Pakistani -- Pakistani Taliban appeared in a video last month saying the time is very near when a Fedayeen, or soldiers, will attack the American states in the major cities. At the time that he issued that warning, U.S. policymakers didn't think the Pakistani Taliban had the ability to reach into the United States. They were, obviously, wrong?

HOLDER: Well, I'm not sure that we didn't think they had that ability. We didn't think that necessarily was their aim. We certainly have seen with the Shahzad incident that they have not only the aim, but the capability of doing that. And that's why they have taken on, I think, a new significance in our anti-terror fight.

TAPPER: Shahzad was on a Treasury Department watch list since the late 1990s for bringing large sums of cash into this country. He was taken off that watch list. Did the U.S. government drop the ball?

HOLDER: No, I don't think so. I think we have done a good job in monitoring those people who we need to identify as potential threats to the, you know, government, and I think one has to understand that in connection with the -- the resolution of this plot, American law enforcement I think was very successful.

TAPPER: More than 200,000 people from the U.S. traveled to Pakistan last year. How on Earth do you keep track of which ones intend to do us harm?

HOLDER: It is a difficult job. We have to try to use the various intelligence sources that we have, try to look for telltale signs for who we should be concerned about.

The vast majority of people who go to Pakistan and come from Pakistan to the United States are well intentioned. They have relatives. They have cultural ties to both countries. So we have to really try to focus and make sure that our attention is directed at those people who would do our nation harm.

TAPPER: There have been reports that others arrested this year in terrorist plots in the United States had traveled to Pakistan. Are there any ties with Shahzad?

HOLDER: Well, the investigation's ongoing. And we're looking at a variety of things to try to make sure that we hold everybody accountable who was responsible for this attempted attack. I think the investigation is proceeding at a good pace. We have developed, I think, a good amount of information in a relatively short period of time, but we will be continuing to work on it.

TAPPER: There was a time when the FBI and law enforcement lost track of Shahzad after the attempted incident, before he got on the plane. What happened?

HOLDER: Well, we lost contact with him for just a bit of time, but I think what people have to understand is that we had a layered approach so that at the end of the day I think we were always confident that he would be picked up, and the question was only where he would be picked up and when he would be picked up.

A surveillance was conducted, but we wanted to have him at a fairly good distance so that we could observe him and see if he would make contact with other people who were connected to the plot. Contact was lost for a relatively short period of time.

TAPPER: How long? An hour?

HOLDER: Oh, I don't know, about an hour, so maybe something along those lines. But what was key and what ultimately proved to be successful was this layered approach. He was caught before he was able to leave the country.

TAPPER: But he almost got out, right? I mean, we got lucky in a few ways. First of all, let's be honest: The reason that we avoided a horrible incident is because he was apparently an incompetent bomb- maker, right?

HOLDER: Well, there certainly was a bit of that, but I think also one has to look at the overall operation. He was stopped before he was able to leave the country because of a notification that the FBI made to put him on the no-fly list. We also had vigilant citizens who looked at that vehicle that he left and saw the smoke coming out and notified the appropriate authorities.

This was, in some ways, I think, a good example of what an aroused American populace, coupled with a vigilant law enforcement community, can actually do.

TAPPER: Critics say that he should not have been -- some critics say he should not have been his Miranda rights, the right to remain silent, et cetera. Now, I know that the public safety exception was invoked, so before he was read his rights, he was interrogated. But does the current Miranda system, which was created before I was born and was updated, this public safety exception, in 1984 -- so none of the crafters were really aware of this plot, this threat that we face today.

Does it give you the flexibility you need?

HOLDER: Well, that's one of the things that we're looking at. I think we have to first say that the system that we have in place has proven to be effective. We have used our law enforcement authorities that we have as they now exist very effectively. People have been given Miranda warnings. People have continued to talk, as was the case here, as was the case with Abdulmutallab in Detroit.

But I think we also want to look at make determinations as to whether or not we have the necessary flexibility, whether we have a system that can deal with the situation that agents now confront. The public safety exception comes from a case called Quarles that dealt with a -- the robbery of a -- of a supermarket.

We're now dealing with international terrorism. And if we are going to have a system that is capable of dealing in a public safety context with this new threat, I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public safety exception. And that's one of the things that I think we're going to be reaching out to Congress to do, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our time and the threat that we now face.

TAPPER: What kind of modification are you talking about, more time for the -- for investigation before the Miranda rights are read or what?

HOLDER: Well, I think a number of possibilities, and those are the kinds of things that we'll be discussing with Congress, to make sure that we are as effective as we can be, that agents are clear in what it is that they can do and interacting with people in this context, so we're going to be working with Congress so that we come up with something that, as I said, gives the necessary clarity, is flexible, but is also constitutional, is also constitutional.

TAPPER: Senator Joe Lieberman and some others introduced legislation this past week which would give the State Department the right to strip the U.S. citizenship from anyone who is designated a foreign terrorist agent. I understand the administration does not support this and thinks that there are constitutional issues, but there's a point that Senator Lieberman made about the fact that President Obama currently has the authority -- at least according to Lieberman, who's the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee -- to order the assassination of a U.S. citizen, the cleric Awlaki, and -- well, this is what Senator Lieberman had to say.


LIEBERMAN: If the president can authorize the killing of a United States citizen because he is fighting for a foreign terrorist organization, we can also have a law that allows the U.S. government to revoke Awlaki's citizenship and that of other American citizens who have cast their lot with terrorist organizations.


TAPPER: Isn't there a strange double-standard here? The administration gets all offended about revoking, you know, terrorist suspects' citizenship, but feels no compunction at all about ordering their assassination?

HOLDER: Well, I'm not going to assume that what has been said there about ordering anybody's assassination is necessarily true. But with regard to the bill that Senator Lieberman is potentially talking about, that's not something I had a chance to really review. There are potential constitutional issues with it, as I've seen some critics discuss. I've not had a chance, as I said, to review it in any great detail, but I think what people have to understand is that the system we presently have in place takes terrorists and can put them in jail for extended periods of time. We can put people in jail fro the rest of their lives. We can even execute people under the law as it presently exists, and one has to wonder whether we need to go further than that.

TAPPER: I want to turn to a couple of other topics. You and the White House have been proud of the improved review process for the release or transfer of detainees from Guantanamo, and in fact, writing of those detainees who had been released and who have returned to terrorism, White House counterterrorism czar John Brennan wrote in February, quote, "I want to underscore the fact that all these cases relate to detainees released during the previous administration and under the prior detainee review process," but in fact there are reports that a detainee released by the Obama administration in December into Afghanistan, Abdul Hafeez (ph), has rejoined the Taliban. Did this review process fail?

HOLDER: I've seen this story. I've not seen the intelligence necessarily that confirms that. I don't think -- one has to understand that the process that we've put in place, of the 240 prisoners who were in Guantanamo when we took office, was exhaustible. It involved the law enforcement community, it involved the intelligence community. We took into account all of the information we had on each one of those people, did an analysis of each of them, and made a determination as to who potentially was a threat. Only put people in countries where we thought structures could be in place, put in place so that they would not be a threat--

TAPPER: What structure could possibly exist in Afghanistan?

HOLDER: Well, that's one of the reason why, for instance, with regard to Yemen, the president has made a determination that we're going to suspend the repatriation of people to Yemen to make sure that we don't take anybody out of Guantanamo and put them in a country where they could pose a threat to the United States or to American military forces.

TAPPER: But you're not going to confirm that Abdul Hafeez has rejoined the fight against the United States.

HOLDER: I am not in a position to confirm that. As I said, I've not seen any intelligence that corroborates that.

TAPPER: OK. Last fall, you announced that the trial of the century against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 plotters would take place in New York City, but it seems to me that that's walked back by the White House. Here is what you had to say about the president's response to your announcement of the trial last fall to PBS.


HOLDER: He has a personal belief that the president is supposed to be hands off with his Justice Department, and those things that are the province of the attorney general, all he needs to be is informed.


TAPPER: This doesn't seem to be the case any longer. Are you disappointed that the White House seems to be politicizing the decisions you make about the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

HOLDER: I don't think the decision has been politicized at all. This is a national security matter, and I think it's appropriate for the president to be involved in that decision. We are working to see exactly where the trial will be held. Nothing is really off the table at this point. We are trying to come up with a place where these people can be brought to justice as quickly as we can, taking into consideration a variety of things that we have to consider. And I think in that regard, the involvement of the president, given the fact that it is a national security matter, as opposed to something else the Justice Department might be doing, his involvement I think is appropriate.

TAPPER: You've said we're a nation of cowards because we don't talk freely and openly about race. So in that spirit, let me give it a shot. Do you think the Arizona immigration law is racist?

HOLDER: Well, I don't think it's necessarily a good idea. I mean, I think we have to understand that the immigration problem that we have, illegal immigration problem that we have, is a national one, and a state-by-state solution to it is not the way in which we ought to go.

TAPPER: But your issue with it is not that it's state-by-state. Your issue with it is that there are concerns that there might be racial profiling that takes place, right?

HOLDER: That is certainly one of the concerns that you have, that you'll end up in a situation where people are racially profiled, and that could lead to a wedge drawn between certain communities and law enforcement, which leads to the problem of people in those communities not willing to interact with people in law enforcement, not willing to share information, not willing to be witnesses where law enforcement needs them. I think you have to think about the collateral consequences of such a law, understanding the frustration that people feel in Arizona. IT's one of the reasons why I think we have to have a national solution to this immigration problem.

TAPPER: Do you think it's racist?

HOLDER: I don't think it's racist in its motivation. But I think the concern I have is how it will be perceived and how it perhaps could be enacted, how it could be carried out. I think we could potentially get on a slippery slope where people will be picked on because of how they look as opposed to what they have done, and that is I think something that we have to try to avoid at all costs.

TAPPER: The oil company BP has a spotty record when it comes to cutting corners and, in some cases, worker safety. Are you looking into the oil spill in the gulf, possible criminal charges, and ways to make sure that these companies -- not just BP, but Halliburton and the others -- are held accountable?

HOLDER: Well, our primary concern at this point is to try to make sure that we keep that oil offshore, that we disperse it, that we scoop it up, that we burn it, that we do all those kinds of things so that it can't get to shore and do damage to our wetlands, damage businesses that are on the coast.

I've sent down representatives from the Justice Department to examine what our options are with regard to the activities that occurred there and whether or not there has been misfeasance, malfeasance on the part of BP or Oceana (ph).

So we're looking at that situation. But as I said, our primary focus at this point -- through our Department of Homeland Security, the Interior Department -- is really try to deal with the spill.

TAPPER: All right. That's all the time we have. Attorney General Eric Holder, thank you so much for coming by.

HOLDER: Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

TAPPER: And joining me now from New York, former mayor and Republican presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us.

GIULIANI: Well, thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Now, you're a former U.S. attorney. If you had been in charge of this investigation, what -- into Faisal Shahzad, what would you do differently, if anything?

GIULIANI: Well, I would not have given him Miranda warnings after just a couple of hours of questioning. I would have instead declared him an enemy combatant, asked the president to do that, and at the same time, that would have given us the opportunity to question him for a much longer period of time. Whether it works in the case of Shahzad or it doesn't, the reality is, the better policy is to give the intelligence agents who are going to question him the maximum amount of time to question him, to check out the credibility of what he's saying.

I mean, I don't know yet what the truth is here. We shouldn't. I mean, I think too much has been leaked about this, and the administration has talked too much about it, because the more you talk about it, the more you warn people in the Taliban to go hide somewhere.

When I was a prosecutor and associate attorney general, the last thing in the world I wanted to do is to have the other side figure out, you know, the information we had before we had a chance to act on it. So the reality is, just to figure -- just to get these guys to tell the truth and then to corroborate how much they're saying and for them to remember, it's going to take three, four, five days of questioning.

To cut it off after 30 or 40 minutes like they did in Detroit on Christmas Day or to cut it off after two or three hours doesn't make much sense. And if they think they need to change the law, well, my goodness, have some urgency about it and go do it. Don't just think about it.

TAPPER: So you support what Attorney General Holder had to say about going to Congress and trying to get an updated Miranda warning?

GIULIANI: I do. I do. I support it, but I really at this point am frustrated by the lack of urgency that is shown about these terrorism matters. I mean, we've had three now where we've seen, you know, big breakdowns: Fort Hood, Christmas Day, and now -- and now this one.

It's about time that we stopped thinking about it and we stopped studying it. I don't know how often the attorney general said he was studying things. How about we stop studying and we start doing things, like we change Miranda, like we fix what appears to be a policy of political correctness in which we missed every signal that related to Major Hasan and promoted him in the military?

And here we missed some very big signals that Shahzad was giving us, going back to Pakistan, remaining there for five or six months, bringing in -- I've forgotten exactly how much cash he brought in from Pakistan, but I think it was something like $60,000...


TAPPER: It was something like -- I think it was $80,000...

GIULIANI: Eighty thousand dollars in cash.

TAPPER: ... but it was several -- several years ago, yes.

GIULIANI: Yes, but that doesn't trigger an alarm, even several years ago?


TAPPER: ... triggered an alarm and he was...

GIULIANI: ... fix these things now instead of talking about them.

TAPPER: Apparently, it did trigger an alarm. He was put on a Treasury watch list, but I'm not sure what more could have been done after that.

GIULIANI: Well, don't you see a pattern here, Jake? And I'm not -- I'm just not talking about the Obama administration. I'm talking about our entire apparatus that has to be fixed. We missed the signals with -- with the -- the -- the bomber in -- in -- in Detroit. We missed the signals with Major Hasan. We missed the signals here.

Maybe we've got to say to ourselves, let's go back and fix all this, rather than study it, to see what we're going to do. We've been at this long enough now to stop studying and start doing things.

TAPPER: I want to talk about the fact that you think that Shahzad should be tried as an enemy combatant. Can you point to any time when a U.S. citizen was interrogated as an enemy combatant as opposed to in the criminal system where the result, the interrogation was more successful than apparently this interrogation is going? I mean, Attorney General Holder and other law enforcement officials say...

GIULIANI: Oh, sure.

TAPPER: ... this is going very well.

GIULIANI: Well, yes, that's OK. I like that. I'm glad it's going very well. And I've, you know, administered Miranda warnings probably 1,000 times, and sometimes they work and the person -- they worked to have the person keep -- keep talking. Sometimes the person stops talking. It depends on the reaction of the person. It's the matter of policy that concerns me.

This is not a smart thing to do. It doesn't make sense to interrupt a terrorist in the middle of his confessing and talking to you. I think even Attorney General Holder realizes that, which is why he wants to go to Congress and seem to get more time for that.

All I'm saying is, OK, do it. What they did in Detroit, in giving Major -- rather...

TAPPER: Abdulmutallab.

GIULIANI: ... Abdulmutabalab (sic) a -- a -- right, giving him a warning after -- after 30 minutes makes no sense. It makes no sense to do that. So, sure, it may work sometimes; it may not work other times. It's not the best policy to follow.

And so far, two in a row, we've gotten lucky. So let's not rely on luck. Let's rely on solid policy.

TAPPER: My understanding, during the Abdulmutallab incident, is that -- is that actually after about 50 minutes they had to take him to get medical care, and that's why he stopped talking then, because he actually -- his life was in danger. But be that as it may, I fear the point you're making.

I want to ask you a question about, in the trial of Richard Reid in 2003, Judge William Young said to Richard Reid in 2003, "You're not an enemy combatant. You're a terrorist. You're not a soldier in any war. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. We do not negotiate with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice."

That's a different attitude than the one you're talking about. Some people say that by making somebody like Shahzad, who is certainly less successful than several of the mobsters you put away, who did far more heinous things than Shahzad actually was able to accomplish, but were tried in a criminal court, they say that what you're proposing would elevate somebody like Shahzad.

GIULIANI: Well, that's absurd, of course. I mean, you get more rights as a civilian defendant than you do as an enemy combatant, so that's a matter of semantics. Maybe you're giving them more status in terms of semantics, but you're giving them less rights, which is really important.

I mean, look at this whole thing with Senator Lieberman's recommendation that citizenship be revoked and look at the reluctance of the attorney general to support that. It shows a sort of sense of, I don't know, not understanding the magnitude of the problem.

I mean, why shouldn't we revoke the citizenship of someone who's been designated the -- an agent of a foreign -- of a foreign power or an agent of a -- of a terrorist group? Of course we should. Of course we should be able to revoke it. And I'd be happy to test the constitutionality of that.

Instead we have an attorney general who's studying that, also. They're at war with us, and we're spending time studying what rights they have. This doesn't make much sense, Jake. We're worried more about the rights of the terrorists, it seems -- or at least pondering that -- more than we are urgency about actually curing some of these things that will keep us safe and not have us rely on luck, which is how we got -- got through these last two ones.

TAPPER: We only have a little bit more time. I want to just get your reaction to what happened in Utah yesterday where Senator Bob Bennett, conservative Republican, lost his party primary. Are you worried at all that the Republican Party is not only growing more hostile to more liberal to moderate Republicans such as yourself, but also conservative Republicans who are shown to -- at least shown an ability to work with Democrats?

GIULIANI: No, I don't think so. I think the reality is that the Republican Party is very much based on its core principles. I think it's operating from its core principles. And I think that at this point, you know, President Obama has pushed the envelope so far that Republican Party wants to have candidates who are going to be -- be effective in standing up to the administration's inexorable march toward European social democracy.

I mean, I -- I see an administration that both in terms of economics and in terms of foreign policy, national security, seems to be moving us in the direction of European social democracy, with government taking over large segments of our -- of our economy, from car companies to banks to the energy industry, which they're trying to do, their health care industry, regulated in a minute (ph) way, the way the social democracies will -- which largely have failed in Europe -- have been doing now for -- you know, for several generations.

TAPPER: All right. Unfortunately...

GIULIANI: We need Republicans who are ideologically committed to standing up against that and really moving us in a different direction. I think that's what you see going on with the Tea Party movement. I think that's what you see going on in these -- in these elections.

TAPPER: All right, wonderful. Thank you so much, Mayor Giuliani. That's all the time we have.

GIULIANI: Thank you, Jake. Always nice to talk to you.

TAPPER: Appreciate it. Nice talking to you, sir.


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