What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

The video for this story is not available, but you can still read the transcript below.
No image

Public Testimony

President Bush agreed Tuesday to allow national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly before the 9/11 commission. Two members of the 9/11 commission discuss this about-face.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, to two members of the 9/11 commission. John Lehman was Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, Jamie Gorelick served as Defense Department general counsel and then deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.

    You both believe the White House did the right thing today, right?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Yes.

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    Yes indeed.

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    We do.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Why was it the right thing?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Well, both of us had been saying and all the members in fact of the commission had been saying she has a lot to contribute to the public understanding of what happened and particularly given the nature of her challenges and the White House's challenges to what Dick Clarke said, I think, and I think we all think, that it's important for her to make her statements in public in a way that can respond to our questions.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now you said on this program, and you said elsewhere, Secretary Lehman, that the refusal of the White House to allow her to do this, up until now, was a political blunder. Is that blunder now off the table?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    I think so, yes. I think it is a right outcome and I think the blunder has been corrected because this is clearly the right thing to do. It can be distinguished from a congressional testimony. We are not the Congress and this is an unprecedented situation. So I think it's the best of all possible outcomes.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Why is it important to talk to her under oath, Ms. Gorelick?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Well, we have adopted a policy which is that we will take testimony in private, not under oath, just because of the mechanics of our — schedule.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    That was a decision you all made?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    We took that decision except when either we knew that there was a discrepancy or a debate about the truthfulness of the testimony or where there might be. And so in this circumstance, where, after all, Condoleezza Rice is asking to testify in order to contradict someone, we thought that it would be much preferable for her to testify under oath and I think we were unanimous in that as well.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    What would you add to that?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    Well, I think it's not an issue of people suspecting that any of the witnesses we've had were lying or would lie if they weren't under oath, but like the prospect of hanging, being sworn concentrates the mind and makes people go back and really look for exactly what happened, not what they casually recollect what will happen. In fact, it's not really needed because it's a felony to lie to a federal investigation in any case. But it is important, and I'm glad the White House agreed to it, because symbolically, the American people understand this is serious business and now all witnesses are on an equal footing.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Is it fair to say that none of this would even have come if it hadn't been for Richard Clarke and his testimony?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    Well, I think that the political heat that was generated and the publicity and the fact that the American people were so riveted. I mean the polling data of the people that paid attention to those hearings is astounding. It made people wake up and say, hey, it's time to stop letting the lawyers run the situation here, and they overruled the lawyers and did the right thing.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    But initially — yeah go ahead.

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    I was going to say, we were seeking her testimony under oath and in public from the get go. This has been a subject of discussion between the commission and the White House for months. So it is fair to say that the Clarke Molotov cocktail, if you will, that was thrown in the middle of our hearings last week heightened the interest in having her on the public's behalf. We have always wanted her to testify, and had her slotted as part of the hearing last week.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Do you have a particular line of questioning that you personally want to pursue with her?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Well, I'm personally interested in two things. One is the issue of whether the National Security Council needs to be operational in a crisis and if so, how. The issue of whether if they had brought people to the table and shaken the trees, whether some of these terrible —

  • JIM LEHRER:

    This is what Clarke said he wanted done and they wouldn't do it.

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Right. He said that, but this line of questioning is one my fellow commissioners are probably sick of hearing because I have been pressing this line for both administrations since the beginning. Government doesn't always work the way it's supposed to. People don't always do their jobs perfectly. And sometimes you need to use what I call brute force, which is bringing people to the table and saying have you done your job? Do you know everything that's in your agency? Have you communicated with your fellows — your colleagues in other agencies? So that's something I would like to pursue with her. And there are other issues as well.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    What is your primary focus for her?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    Well, I'm very anxious to get her views on what we should do to change things because I think we all have total agreement that neither of the last two presidents was well served by the intelligence and national security apparatus that we've had in place for a very long time. And that's the real purpose of this commission. We're going to make changes. We are going to have some very far reaching recommendations for changes that can be implemented and implemented soon so that our vulnerabilities go away. I want to hear her views on some specific recommendations that we are beginning to come to agreement on.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    So you don't have, hey, Clarke said this, what do you say about that, Dr. Rice?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    No, I don't care about that. I think the record will speak for itself on that.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Do you have any of those kinds of questions?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Well, the staff is looking at her statement, her public statements and private statements as well as Clarke's and frankly many, many other witnesses. I mean, most of what Dick Clarke testified to will be corroborated or not by third parties and documents. But if there are material discrepancies, material differences, even in point of view, we will probably put those to her.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Mr. Secretary, the consensus of people watching, you say a lot of people were, is that the Clarke testimony kind of split open any bipartisanship that you all were demonstrating up to that point. First of all, do you agree with that?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    Well, it certainly gave that appearance. But it wasn't really the fact. We have been remarkably unified and will be unanimous in our recommendations as far as we can see —

  • JIM LEHRER:

    How do you know that?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    I don't know for sure, but we have spent a lot of time together, and I think we are all coming to agreement on what the real dysfunctions were. What you saw in a partisan split in a way, had to do with what my objections were to Dick's testimony. It's not so much that he said something entirely different than what he had said in his 15 hours with us. But he really pulled his punches on the Clinton years in his book and his testimony compared to what he told us. He was devastating on many of the Clinton appointees and the lack of follow-through on what Clinton wanted to do. He was very favorable to Clinton. But we only heard half of that. And that was the seven months of the Bush administration when he came out in public.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Well, both of you took hits on this. I mean, a lot of people said that you were — you, Ms. Gorelick, were a little more anxious to take care of the Clinton thing and you were very much more anxious to take care of the Bush position on this. Is that going to change — when you all meet again in public?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    We met today.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    I mean in public.

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Well, when we meet in public — well, look, we are members of different parties. But the fact of the matter is if you put ten honorable people in a room, five D's and five R's and you tell them to work through a hard problem, you know, you are going to see a lot less partisanship in the end than people would expect. And we have gotten along really terrifically. Many of the issues that have divided us have had nothing to do with party but more to do with life experience, where you came from, where you worked, were you on the Hill, were you in the executive branch? Each of us has issues that we care about. So, you know, I think this is really much ado about nothing. I actually thought that given the circumstance, we were not terribly partisan, and there is a huge imperative for us to be as unanimous as possible. And we all know it.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    If you can't put it back together, does that destroy the whole work of the commission if it's perceived that, okay, the Republicans come out of this with one view, the Democrats come out with another — business as usual?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    That's just not going to be acceptable. We're not going to do that. That's just not going to happen.

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    But the only split that I've seen is on the opinion, you know, Dick Clarke's opinions. He didn't like going into Iraq. Fine, he's — it's perfectly all right to have that point of view and we kind of divided a little bit over that. But we have not divided over the substance and the dysfunctions that are there in the domestic intelligence and Central Intelligence Agency, in the sharing of information, in the way we go about advising our presidents and senior leaders. I've seen nothing but unanimity on the substantive issues. Opinion we'll continue to have our differences.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Opinion — opinion of course goes into the area of judgment. You all are talking about process here but eventually somebody along the line had to make some judgment calls. Are you all going to judge the judgers?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Well, let me say two things. Number one, if you look at our staff statements, we put out eight very substantive staff statements that by and large represent the view of all the commissioners. And —

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Each of you read every word and signed —

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    We read every word. They were purposely cast as staff statements because we are waiting until the end to make sure we are comfortable with each and every word, but we have come together on the facts. I mean I am a lawyer. I know John, you know, it kills him that I'm a lawyer, but I believe that the facts rule out. I really do. And I also believe that the strength of our policy recommendations rests on the strength of our factual conclusions.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Are you prepared as a Democrat to sign on a report that takes serious hits on the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Read the staff statements. They already do.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You the same?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    Absolutely.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    On George W. Bush?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    On the fact that the chips will fall where they may, and those staff statements are a very good example. We will be naming names where they're relevant to the issue. We'll be identifying real failures, real negligence.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Real bad judgments?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    And real bad judgments. And if you saw the hearings before the last ones, you saw a lot of bad judgments that were identified.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    The other thing quickly that was part of the agreement today was for President Bush and Vice President Cheney to testify together, but in private and not under oath. You're okay on that?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    Yeah. I think that gives us what we need. I think that's — the thing that troubled all of us the most was time limits.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Originally it was just an hour, right?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    It was just an hour. Now there are no time limits on it so we can see that all the questions are asked — and the fact that all of us couldn't be there.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    It was just going to be Tom Kean —

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    It was just going to be two of them and neither they nor we were comfortable with that. The arrangement of having them testify together is a little odd but it was the condition that was imposed in order for the ten of us to be present.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You would have preferred it — as a lawyer, you would have preferred separate testimony?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Yes.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Why?

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    Well, because there are reasons that you don't take testimony in groups. You want to have each person's recollection and understanding on their own. Nevertheless, I think this is a fine arrangement. We'll get what we need.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Commission back on track?

  • JOHN LEHMAN:

    I think it never was off track.

  • JAMIE GORELICK:

    I agree.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    All right. Thank you both very much.

The Latest