Guests: Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, Michael Isikoff, Joe Biden, Kristin Breitweiser
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thank you, Dan.
We‘ve just been watching those very heartfelt remarks from the victims‘ families of 9/11, and we‘re going to be hearing right now from Governor George Pataki of New York. And of course that is the state where 9/11 hit.
Governor Pataki, thanks for joining us. You‘re a lawyer. What do you make of this life imprisonment verdict?
GOV. GEORGE PATAKI ®, NEW YORK: Well, Chris, first let me say, I‘m proud of America. The greatness of our country is that we‘re a nation of laws, and we apply those laws fairly to everyone even those who have come here to attack us.
And I happen to personally think that the death penalty is an appropriate part of a fair system of criminal justice. And I certainly believe that the death penalty is appropriate when people engage in terrorist acts and take thousands of lives.
But I think we sent a message to the world here that we are a nation of laws. We are going to apply those laws equally to everyone. And it just, I think, shows the greatness of our country, as disappointed as some family members and as disappointed as I am in the final outcome of the verdict.
MATTHEWS: I was stunned, were you governor, to hear that the jurors found that he is responsible—this man we are looking at right now, Zacarias Moussaoui—for the damage done on 9/11, but not responsible for the deaths of the 3,000 people. How can that be?
PATAKI: Well, I don‘t know how the jury came to that conclusion. But all I can say is that we have shown the world that we have a fair and a balanced system of justice in our country and that we‘re going to defend our freedoms and that the world should look at us not as a country that seeks to impose its will but seeks only to protect human rights and protect the rights of those who would obey laws and punish those who break the laws.
And as I said I happen to believe in the death penalty. I think it is an important part of this system of criminal justice. And I don‘t know how the jury came to this particular conclusion. But I think it does send the message to the world that we are a nation of laws and a nation of freedom, and we are proud of that fact.
MATTHEWS: It is great having you. Thank you very much, Governor George Pataki of New York State.
Let‘s go right now to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Your honor, what is your reaction? And what are your thoughts going back to on 9/11 right now?
Mayor? Mr. Mayor? Mr. Mayor, can you hear me? We‘re hoping to get Mayor Rudy Giuliani right now. Of course he was the great hero of 9/11 to many Americans compared very much to Winston Churchill of Britain during World War II.
Let‘s go back now to Governor Pataki.
Governor Pataki, thanks for sticking with us here. I guess the question is as a lawyer and you have been through this in the courtroom situation, when someone gets life in prison without parole, what does that mean to you?
Governor Pataki? Governor Pataki? We‘re having some problems here. We‘re going to right now to former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
Mr. Commissioner, are you on the line? Mr. Commissioner, are you on the line? Hello? Bernard Kerik, are you on the line? Thank you sir. What do you make of this verdict by the federal jury in the Moussaoui case?
We‘re having all kinds of technical difficulties here. That is three in a row right there.
Let me go right now to Roger Cressey, a NBC terrorist expert, Roger Cressey. Roger, are you on the phone?
ROGER CRESSEY, NBC COUNTER-TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, I am, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Roger, give us a sense of this jury. We were—I was just talking to the governor of New York, George Pataki, about the incongruity here in the jury‘s judgments.
A majority—in fact there could not be an unanimous finding by the jury that this man Zacarias Moussaoui, who was trying to get flying lessons to learn how to fly the big planes and ram the into buildings, should be punished by life or rather by death for the deaths of the 3,000 people on 9/11.
However, the jury did find him unanimously to be guilty of the damage done, of all the wounds and other courts of human and physical damage done that be. How can that be consistent?
CRESSEY: Well, Chris, it is going to be interesting to hear the jury members as they describe how they came to this because, you have to pause this I guess. They are saying he was part of the broader conspiracy that led to the attacks, but yet there was the one key part of the overall attacks that they could not find him guilty on. It is difficult for us to see the thought process.
One possibility—and this is pure speculation—is that they believed that the government was not able to demonstrate the direct connection between Moussaoui and had Moussaoui‘s information gotten in the hands of law enforcement that would have prevented the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.
But we simply don‘t know yet. We are going to have wait and hear from the jury.
MATTHEWS: OK Roger hang on. Roger Cressey, NBC terrorist analyst.
Let‘s bring on the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.
Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining us. Are you on the line?
RUDY GIULIANI, FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: How are you Chris?
MATTHEWS: Thank you, but your thoughts must be going back to 9/11 right now with this, the first verdict really in the case of 9/11.
GIULIANI: Oh, sure, sure. Of course they do. And I testified. I testified in the penalty phase of the trial. And it was much more difficult than I thought it would be reviewing all that, going over it, seeing the films of it.
And, you know, obviously I‘m not personally involved in this, but I would have preferred a different verdict. But it does show that we have a legal system, that we follow, that we respect it. And it is exactly what is missing in the parts of the world or a lot of the parts of the world that are breeding terrorism.
So maybe there is something good that come out of this in showing these people that—at least showing the ones that have any kind of an open mind that we are a free society, a lawful society, a decent society, that we have respect for people‘s rights and that we can have disagreements about whether the death penalty should be imposed on somebody like Moussaoui.
I think it should have been. I‘ve been a lawyer more of my life than anything else. And I respect a jury‘s verdict. I sat in front of this jury for about three or four hours. They look like very, very careful and very decent people. And I am sure they did the best they could.
MATTHEWS: Do you think this is going to hearken back to the Boston massacre when once again back in the old days the American people chose to honor the restraints of laws rather than passions?
GIULIANI: You know, it does say something pretty remarkable about us. Doesn‘t it? I mean, we probably haven‘t had anything that emotionally affected as much as September 11 in a very, very long time. And I could tell that these jurors were very emotionally affected by as I was when we went through all of the events. And they heard a lot more testimony after me that as compelling or more.
And yet they were able to come to what they regarded as a rational judgment. It has to say something about what America is like. And even though I am disappointed that they didn‘t reach the death penalty result, I would have preferred that, I have great respect for what they did here.
MATTHEWS: Where is the rationality in deciding, as they did today unanimously, that this man, Zacarias Moussaoui, was responsible in some way for all the damage done to your city of New York and to the Pentagon on that horrible day of 9/11, 2001, but was not responsible for the deaths that occurred day.
GIULIANI: I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: How does that make sense?
GIULIANI: I don‘t know. I knew—obviously knew my testimony in the case. I don‘t know the rest of the case. I don‘t know how they would come to that conclusion. I mean, from what I knew of the case and what I read in the paper, it seemed to me he knew about this. He could have prevented it in a very real sense.
Had he given up the information that he knew then, you know, more than likely all of these people that died, including some that are very close friends of mine, would be alive, and therefore you hold them accountable for it.
But, you know, the law is complex. There are lots of other testimony. This was this whole insanity thing that was played out. I am sure the jurors, you know, reached the verdict they thought in conscience was the best one.
So it is a complex set of feelings that I have. I would have preferred to see the death penalty, but I kind of stand in awe of how our legal system works that it can come to a result like this. It has to say something about us to the rest of the word.
MATTHEWS: Are you disappointed?
GIULIANI: Yes, I‘m disappointed. I believe that the death penalty was appropriate in this case, should have been applied. But then at the same time—and maybe this is like the contradictory, complex feelings we all have about September 11 and everything that‘s come from it. At the same time, I have tremendous respect for our legal system.
It should be amazing to the people in the other parts of the world that don‘t have something like this how a group of 12 very decent Americans can come to the result that it just wasn‘t appropriate to have a death penalty here, and that they‘re free to do that, they‘re protected in doing that, and even those of us who disagree with them respect them for coming to that conclusion.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, when you think about the crime that was committed against your city and against this country on 9/11, 2001, and the people that—you saw them jumping out of buildings from 100 floors. Rather than face burning alive, they faced dying from a huge fall.
When you think about that kind of victimhood and you are reacting to it now, and you think about a man who deliberately went out to take flying lessons, not so he could land a plane, but so that he could take a giant airplane and fly it into a building like the World Trade Center, is that the crime you think of, or is it the keeping of the secret between then and now? What is the crime in your heart that this man committed?
GIULIANI: No, it‘s—in this case, it‘s keeping a secret and knowing as I know, you know, the legal system and the law enforcement system and how it works, had he disclosed it, then all those little pieces that maybe were out there that should have been put together would have been put together.
And, you know, we‘ve been struggling for years to figure out should the FBI have known more? Should this person have known more? Should that person have known more? In fact, here was the guy who knew more ...
GIULIANI: ... and didn‘t tell anybody. He didn‘t give anybody the connector that would have very likely have prevented all of this and all those wonderful people would be alive, and children that I know who don‘t have fathers would have fathers.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the courtroom, Your Honor, for you going in and testifying in the sentencing phase of this trial. Did you—I remember Scott Turow once saying in a courtroom a prosecutor has to point the finger, basically, has to look in the eye of the bad guy and say he did it, he‘s the killer. Did you do that that day? Did you look in the eye of Moussaoui?
GIULIANI: I looked at him twice. I looked at him twice but the way the courtroom was set up, I was looking at the jury much more than I was looking at him because he was sitting behind me. And it was a very strange experience. And I then saw him when I came in. I saw him when I testified, but when I was testifying, he was not in my line of sight.
I would have to look over my shoulder to see him. It was a very strange experience having him that close to me. I mean, it was all that I could do ...
MATTHEWS: Yes, it must have been awful.
GIULIANI: ... to contain my feelings about that as well.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about the jury, because you‘ve faced many juries as a prosecutor in big cases? You‘ve put bad guys away, and you‘ve had to convince 12 juries of men and women of different backgrounds that a man deserves serious punishment. Did you have a sense when you looked at that jury you were making your case?
GIULIANI: I saw from—my testimony was a couple weeks ago, so a lot of things have happened since then. And I didn‘t get to see the rest of it, but it looked me like they were a very serious group of people. And I know that the way that the prosecutor, Mr. Novak, presented the testimony, it was extremely powerful, but powerful and understated ...
MATTHEWS: Are you looking forward—are you looking forward ...
GIULIANI: I mean, it was a really wonderful balance of—you know, and now I‘m sort of commenting as a trial lawyer. And I really admired the way in which he did it. It seemed to me he did it exactly the right way. He laid out the facts.
There was no point in trying to overdo the facts. They were pretty darn awful. And, I mean, it affected me, and it seemed to me that it was affecting the jury. Exactly why they came to the conclusion they came to and then all the testimony that happened afterwards about insanity and ...
MATTHEWS: OK. Mr. Mayor, I have to interrupt you. Could you hold on for just a minute while we both listen to Paul McNulty, the prosecutor?
PAUL MCNULTY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The jury has spoken and we respect and accept its verdict. And we thank them for their service.
Years ago in al Qaeda‘s terrorist training camps, Zacarias Moussaoui fermented his hatred of America. This hatred carried him from the remote regions of Afghanistan to a flight training school in the United States.
It ultimately led him to lie to FBI agents weeks before the September 11 attacks. He lied about why he was in the United States and his intentions to fly a plane into the White House. This lie was a critical moment in the conspiracy and it allowed his fellow terrorist to carry out their brutal plans.
I extend my deepest thanks to all the victims for their patience and their perseverance. At time, this has been a maddening experience. The testimony of the defendant was deeply offensive, but through it all, the victims have triumphed over the terrorist‘s rants with their strength, their courage and their character. We have been inspired by their bravery and blessed by their support.
These proceedings have given voice to the victims. We all were given an opportunity to share in their pain, and to understand a little better what they experienced. And for that, we are all enriched.
This case has taken four-and-a-half years to prosecute. Moussaoui was indicted shortly after I became U.S. attorney here in the eastern district of Virginia in 2001. It has been an unprecedented law enforcement effort in many respects.
First, this case has involved the most extensive victim outreach effort in the history of federal prosecutions. Nearly 2,000 victims have been personally interviewed by dozens of prosecutors, paralegals and agents. More than 5,000 victims received regular updates on the case.
And over the past two months, these proceedings have been viewed by hundreds around the country on close circuit television. I want to thank the victim witness coordinators, especially Karen Spinks (ph) for all of their compassion and unparalleled service.
Second, this prosecution has been an extraordinary collaboration between two United States attorneys offices and the criminal division of the Department of Justice.
I want to thank Alice Fisher, the assistant attorney general for the criminal division; Chuck Rosenberg, the United States attorney for the eastern district of Virginia who is standing behind me now; and Michael Garcia, the United States attorney for the southern district of New York.
These offices have worked as one team for more than four years, and a number of professionals have made tremendous personal sacrifices in devotion to this effort. To all the legal assistants, paralegals, attorneys, FBI agents and law enforcement officials who have served on this team, thank you for your skill and devotion.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘re going right back. That was Paul McNulty, the prosecutor in this case for the eastern district of Virginia. We are going right back now to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Mr. Giuliani, he said it was the lie. It was what you said, that is his guilt.
GIULIANI: Pardon me, Chris?
MATTHEWS: He said it was the lie, the lying to the federal prosecutors when they interviewed him.
GIULIANI: Yes, sure.
MATTHEWS: The FBI agents that allowed 9/11 to occur that was his guilt here.
GIULIANI: I would—I mean, it seemed to me from the evidence that I new about from the—that wasn‘t the part that I testified on, but from the evidence that I knew about from reading it in the papers that that was a very good case.
I mean, he lied to the FBI. If he had told the truth, he could have prevented it. And to me, that would have made him part of the conspiracy. It would rMD+IN_rMDNM_make him a very material and important part of the conspiracy. I mean they—in order to carry this out, these people had to all keep their mouths shut.
MATTHEWS: You will be asked in the days ahead, Mr. Mayor, whether justice was done today. Was it?
GIULIANI: Justice was done. Sure. I mean, this is the system that we have for justice. It was a trial. It seemed like it was a fair trial. I think the judge was fair. I think the jurors were fair. It‘s just not the result that I would have come to.
But I think—I think that if you believe in this system, you have to be willing to deal with conclusions that are maybe different than the one you would like as long as it has been carried out in the right way.
I do think there is a value to this. I think the greater value would have been if he had been executed, but I think there is value in demonstrating to people what is America is like. We can have these kind of emotional disagreements, then there‘s the law and we‘re going to follow it.
MATTHEWS: So you don‘t think that jury‘s inability to reach a unanimous decision for death showed a lack of guts or lack of will?
GIULIANI: No. No. I would never say that. I‘ve prosecuted many cases. I‘ve been in court many times and I was on the jury myself. I have great respect for the jury process. From everything I can tell about these people when I testified in front of them, these were very serious conscientious people. They reached the result they thought was the right one. You and I may disagree with it. I do.
MATTHEWS: Do some people get on to juries involving capital cases that shouldn‘t be there because they not really vetted properly.
GIULIANI: I can‘t say that happened here though. Of course that happens. Either way some people get on because they have—they have an agenda against the death penalty. Some people get on because they‘re going to impose the death penalty no matter what.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this question. The man who is now going to face life imprisonment without parole, probably solitary most of time, said on his way out of the court room tonight, this is Zacarias Moussaoui as he was led from the courtroom he said, “America you lost” and clapped his hands. Your reaction to that.
GIULIANI: He is wrong as he has probably been wrong for a very long time. America won tonight. America demonstrated something that the places that he came from, I doubt they‘d be able to demonstrate. And not a lot of places could demonstrate. It demonstrated that the legal system that we have, that we would like to see the rest of the world have something like it, it works, it works to be fair, even if we disagree.
MATTHEWS: It‘s an important night to have you on. Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us. Former New York mayor. Rudolph Giuliani.
Let‘s go right now to a wife of one of the people who was killed on 9/11 by the kind of terrorism that is being prosecuted and apparently going to be punished for a long time in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui. Kristin Breitweiser. Kristen, thank you for joining us. I‘m anxious to hear your reaction to the verdict.
KRISTIN BREITWEISER, 9/11 WIDOW: Obviously I‘m grateful to the jury for the work that they did. As a lawyer, I have to respectfully disagree with former mayor Giuliani. I happen to think that the case against Moussaoui was not that strong and I think that the jury is probably appropriate in the way that they came down with the case.
I think that we have other people in our own custody that certainly knew more than Moussaoui, namely Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, Tawfiq bin Atash and Ramsey Binalshibh. And I think that they had a more direct connection to 9/11 and more appropriately should be being prosecuted by our Justice Department more so than Moussaoui, who was in jail on the day of 9/11.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think that‘s the case?
BREITWEISER: You know, obviously I‘m not stupid. I understand that there are much talk or rumor that we have tortured them or are unable to prosecute them. I think that needs to be debated amongst the American people. If we are going to say that we successfully prosecute terrorists, then we should actually do that.
With the case of Moussaoui I hope it motivates our government to prosecute those people that we have in our custody that certainly had a more direct connection than Moussaoui did. And I hope it sends a message that in some cases torture is going to bar our ability to hold people accountable.
MATTHEWS: Kristin, can you hold on. We‘re going to all listen, you included, to the defense attorney, Ed McMahon right now.
EDWARD MCMAHON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: ...of the family members was intensely personal and it also displayed the deep divisions that mark the issue of capital punishment in our country. This is the only case, to our knowledge, where victims have testified as witnesses called by the defense. This testimony demonstrated resilience in the possibility of renewal.
As we have said many times, none of these witnesses testified for Moussaoui. They all spoke their minds as citizens of a free nation uncowed by acts of terror. In this trial, we learned a lot about our government acted before September 11th.
It is our hope that the government does not use the verdict in this case as an excuse for its performance before September 11. That would be the worst probable outcome of this trial.
And finally, on behalf of everyone, my colleagues here. We want to say that we‘ve been honored to participate in this trial as counsel. The court charged us with defending Mr. Moussaoui‘s constitutional rights and we have done so to the best of our abilities. Vigorous representation of those accused of crimes is a hallmark or our judicial system and we are proud to have done our part. That‘s the statement, ladies and gentlemen. If you have any questions.
QUESTION: Some of the responses to the mitigators seem illogical at times. If you can have, for example, three people finding that he was not a major player on 9/11 but zero findings on another comparable. Does it look like there were compromises going on?
I think you will find that most—I think you‘ll find most capital defense attorneys, where they have specific mitigator findings, will tell you there are always inconsistencies. There is nothing unusual about that. It is impossible to figure out exactly what people were thinking.
GERALD ZERKIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Remember, jurors might have found that something was true but found it was not mitigating. So you have to factor that in as well. Those inconsistencies are always going be found. What I think it demonstrates is clearly the first phase of trial, although they determined that he was eligible, plainly impacted the result.
Just from listening to it, I haven‘t studied it carefully, but by listening to the result, it‘s obvious that they thought his knowledge of 9/11, his role in 9/11 was not very great and that played a significant role in the result that we had.
QUESTION: Was this the most difficult defendant that you‘ve ever represented and did you lose hope at some point in the trial or did this verdict surprise you?
MCMAHON: You know, we charged this decision to the jury and juries surprise all trial lawyers in all cases. The answer to your first question, yes. Moussaoui is the most difficult client I‘ve ever had in my life.
QUESTION: What did you think when he took the stand and basically testified for the prosecution?
MCMAHON: Actually I don‘t even know what to say about that.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going right now to U.S. Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware. He is the ranking Democrat on Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Biden, you were scheduled to be on tonight. I want you to say what you think. However, in this case we‘ve got to narrow it down. Zacarias Moussaoui has been sentenced to life without parole. What‘s your reaction.
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE) FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE.: My reaction is I wish he had gotten death but I watched your program, Chris. I the most incredible thing was the two widows who testified and thanked the jury, not testified, who were on your show and they were thanking the jury.
This is incredible, incredible deal. I agree with some of your previous speakers saying this is an incredible demonstration that we are totally completely free and we are a pretty fair outfit.
MATTHEWS: Former mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was there of course at 9/11, was something of a hero that day. He said tonight that he thought the wrong verdict. He thought the proper verdict was death because this man not only tried to learn how to fly a plane to ram is into a building but he kept secret his role in this conspiracy that led to 9/11 and he could have prevented 9/11 had he spoken honestly. Is that a thought you have or don‘t?
BIDEN: It‘s a thought I had. The other thought I had when I heard you talking is I thought of Timothy McVeigh and Nichols. What did the jury do there? They put McVeigh to death and they said not to death for Nichols. I think it is sort of the same kind of thing.
I used to defend cases, nothing like this, when I was a young lawyer in the criminal justice system as a public defender. It is hard for jurors, I think sometimes, to put someone to the maximum penalty, in this case death, for conspiracy. And that is that the guy knew and didn‘t say anything. I think that warrants a death penalty, but I can see how they can conclude that, in response to your question.
I could see how they conclude that he is responsible for the damage but not nor the murders. He is responsible for the murders because the murders came from the damage. But you can see the disconnect where people say wait a minute. He didn‘t pull the trigger, he didn‘t fly the plane. He knew and he didn‘t tell us.
And I think as I heard everybody talking it reminded me of the Oklahoma City case, where, again they gave McVeigh death, who actually pulled the trigger, and the guy who could have stopped him, who could have told people what he was about to do, they didn‘t give him death.
MATTHEWS: What did you make of Zarqawi‘s comment as he left the courtroom, he yelled out, Moussaoui yelled out, “America you lost,” and clapped his hands.
BIDEN: Let me tell you something. I don‘t want to be that sucker in prison. I don‘t want to be that guy in an American prison. If you want to say how to punish somebody, put al-Zarqawi in a prison with a bunch of red- blooded American criminals, criminals. Put him in there for live and guarantee under no circumstances, no circumstances, could he get out of prison. I think that boy is about to have, as we Catholics say, an epiphany. I think he‘s about to find how that he may not have gotten the better end of the deal.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘ll survive for long in prison, Senator?
BIDEN: I don‘t want to answer that because I‘ll get 6,000 letters saying I‘m encouraging something bad happening to him. I think it‘s not going to be an easy road for him.
MATTHEWS: OK, hold on Senator, if you don‘t mind. I know you‘ve agreed to stick around just for a minute.
I want to go back to one of the well-known victims of the people—of the person killed, a person killed on 9/11 itself at the World Trade Center, that‘s Kristin Breitweiser. Do you have a comment on what you‘ve been just listening to, Kristin?
BREITWEISER: Yes, I have to say two things really. No. 1, now that the Moussaoui penalty phase is over, I certainly hope that the information will be flowing freely to the American people. For four years, I and many other 9/11 family members have fought very hard to have information released go the public, information about governmental failures. We were always told that we couldn‘t have that information because it would harm Moussaoui‘s right to a fair trial.
Having said that, I would appreciate someone asking either Senator Biden or former Mayor Giuliani, if their standard for death is withholding information from the FBI that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks—how then are we excusing FBI agents Maltbie and Frasca, who were accused, or allegedly accused in the Moussaoui penalty phase itself, of being criminally negligent with regard to giving a FISA warrant.
How would you explain George Tenet, who withheld information about two of the 9/11 hijackers for 18 months from the FBI—information that certainly would have gone a long way into preventing those attacks. And I‘d like to know, where are we drawing the line here, what is the threshold, and why are we not holding those types of people in our own government accountable?
And I think they‘re going to have a long of explaining to do in Congress and at the White House when that information flows to the American people and the American people start asking similar questions.
MATTHEWS: Senator, is there a criminal intent there or did you see a distinction between the behavior of public officials and Zacarias Moussaoui, who‘s just been sentenced to life?
BIDEN: I‘d like to make three points. I think the juror makes an absolutely—excuse me, the family makes an absolutely accurate point about being not being held accountable and that the denial of information just like a previous family member said, they now hope that in fact we‘ll start to do the things the 9/11 Commission said should be done to protect America.
I think they make a very valid point. On the legal standpoint, there is a difference between criminal negligence, which arguably is exactly what happened with regard to the members of the government, and a specific plan to in fact seek for a very bad thing to happen—know what was going to happen, and encouraging it happening.
One is criminal negligence, the word is negligence. And the other one is a pure criminal intent. And so in the law there‘s a distinction between the two. But I‘m not second guessing the jury here, Chris. I was trying to explain what I can understand how the jury can reach that verdict. I would have, my guess is, based on what I have seen on television, my guess is—and maybe I‘m just reacting like an angry American—that I would have liked to have seen the death penalty.
And I think it appeared to be justified. But, look, the jurors made a decision. And my point is they could rationally arrive at such a decision. And the woman who just spoke, I admire the heck out, because she‘s making a point now.
There is no longer any excuse—no longer any excuse for us to not do two things. One, come clean with the mistakes that were made and two, fix them especially the 9/11 Commission report. Here we are, it cost $42 billion to put in place those 9/11 Commission recommendations that were pointed out were not done as of December 5th of this year.
And we‘re about to give people making over a million bucks a year a $43.2 billion tax break in one year. Were are our priorities?
MATTHEWS: Kristin, do you want to react to that?
BREITWEISER: Listen, all I would have to say with regard to the mens rea, throwing out a legal term, I‘m a lawyer, but I don‘t practice law, is that after 17 sailors died on the USS Cole and two of those hijackers that Tenet had under surveillance were inside this country, I would say that if you‘re the DCI, you should know to bring those gentlemen in. You should know to bring the FBI in the loop.
Having said that, with regard to the 9/11 Commission recommendations, without doubt. I mean, you are talking about the city of New York still not having radios for the firemen. You‘re talking about the Hurricane Katrina, where our evacuation protocols were abysmal.
We are almost five years out from 9/11. We have not paid any attention, we have not learned any lessons and the truth of the matter is, we are not any safer. If anything we are less safe.
And it breaks my heart. We—the 9/11 family members fought very, very hard to get those recommendations put in place. We fought hard for the commission. I don‘t know what more it is going to take and I would ask Senator Biden to keep fighting down in Washington.
And we‘d like to see some action and I would tell all the American people listening that the election is coming up, the midterm elections. Hold your elected officials accountable, because we are almost five years out from 9/11 and we are no safer.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask the senator a couple questions, just to clarify before you leave. Senator, one question, do you believe it was rational part of the jury in its verdict today on sentencing to say that Zacarias Moussaoui was responsible for the damage done on 9/11 that wounded people, the damage done to buildings, et cetera, but not responsible for the deaths of the people that day? How does that square?
BIDEN: In strictly legal terms, I‘m not sure it does. But in emotional terms, it does. I think people make distinctions between the people who pull the trigger and the people who in fact know the trigger was going to be pulled and didn‘t do anything about it.
That‘s all I‘m saying, Chris. I just think it‘s human nature that kind of distinction sometimes is made. I‘m not making a legal distinction.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the other jury finding. The jury found—we‘ll have to go through this overnight tonight and tomorrow again at length. But the jury found in the initial announcements late this afternoon that this man did suffer from a bad childhood. He was in orphanages. He had a cruel father. Do you think that‘s relevant in cases of an adult committing such a heinous crime?
BIDEN: I don‘t, but look, I don‘t want to be the guy up here looking like—these jurors sweated over and bled over their decision. I wasn‘t in that jury room.
If the 9/11 families can be big enough and gracious enough and in a strange sense, generous enough to say “OK we respect what the jury did, the guy‘s going to life with no possibility of parole or probation,” then it‘s not for me to be criticizing the jury.
I think you can flyspeck it. It‘s hard to be in their position. But I for one, I was disappointed that the decision wasn‘t different. I can understand how they emotionally at a minimum reached the distinction that they reached apparently.
And I think we should just say God bless him and the good news is Moussaoui ain‘t going to hurt anybody, anymore, ever. He is behind bars for life, so help him God, done, finished.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. Thank you very much sir for joining us tonight. I want to ask Kristin, while you‘re staying here—Kristin, what‘s your emotional attitude towards Moussaoui yourself?
BREITWEISER: Clearly I am happy that he‘s behind bars and he‘s not able to wreak havoc and terrorize our cities.
MATTHEWS: Do you hate him?
BREITWEISER: You know, Chris, I really don‘t hate him. I don‘t know him personally. What I can tell you is that in the breakdown of the murder of my husband, Moussaoui is further down on the nexus link than other people, name Osama bin Laden, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Kalad Benetash (ph).
Those are the people that if you‘re going to use the death penalty, I would like to see the death penalty used on. They had more of a direct connection than Moussaoui. You know, I am grateful that Moussaoui will be in jail. I am grateful that we can now have information flowing to the American people and hopefully that will energize the American people to force our Congress and our White House to start making changes so that we are safer.
MATTHEWS: You might have in your head, Kristin, whether you do or not, some bad news about the way we handled as a country, 9/11 before and after. What is it? What is your worst case thought about what‘s being not made available to you now? The information you want to get. What do you think is in there?
BREITWEISER: You know what, I don‘t know what‘s in there. Obviously it is classified, but what I can tell you is we‘d certainly like to have access to the CIA inspector general‘s report. We‘d like to have the full FBI inspector general‘s report released. And we‘d also like to have the WMD part two report released. All of those reports we were personally promised by members of Congress, the Intel committees and Porter Goss himself, the DCI—the current DCI, that they would be given to the American people.
I don‘t know what to tell you. We‘ve tried. We write letters, we do press releases. They‘re not releasing that information. All I can tell you is it seems like they‘re trying to hide something. And if it means that it will leak damning information to the American people about the failures on behalf of the government, I hope that that information will finally motivate our elected officials to do something, to learn lessons, and to make us safer, because on the day of the next attack, I genuinely do not know how our elected officials—everyone, White House, Congress, everyone across the board will be able to rest their head on their pillow and know that they did everything possible to save lives on the day of the next attack.
MATTHEWS: Kristin, stay with us. That‘s Kristin Breitweiser who her husband at 9/11 at the World Trade Center. She will be staying with us right now.
We are talking about the life imprisonment sentence without parole for Zacarias Moussaoui.
Let‘s go right now to the courthouse and to NBC‘s Kevin Corke.
Kevin, the jury here is—how are you reading their decision with regard to these aggravating factors here?
KEVIN CORKE, NBC NEWS, ALEXANDRIA, VA: You know, Chris, that‘s one of the big questions as we continue to pour over this 42-page verdict. Frankly, we are looking for consistency, and we‘re not finding it to be honest with you. In cases like these, as you know—and you have covered many—are always somewhat unusual because a jury will say one thing on one hand and another on another hand.
And yet, as we look for consistency, we are having a little bit of difficulty. I will give you an example. They were asked among the mitigating factors, if they thought that Moussaoui suffered from a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia or some other paranoid subtype. And of the 12 jurors asked that question, zero said that they thought that was a factor.
So this idea that somehow maybe Moussaoui is nuts didn‘t resonate with the jury at all. And yet, on the same hand when they said yes, we think he‘s responsible for not stepping up and telling authorities the truth, they are also saying that no, he is not directly responsible for the deaths of 3,000 people. So it is a difficult decision to sort of figure out.
But I think at the end of the day two things really stand out to me, Chris. No. 1, when the jurors deliberated for more than 40 hours, we really got the sense here at the courthouse that this sounded more and more like an opportunity for them to say look, life in prison is probably the best circumstance from their vantage point to not only send the message that if you kill lots of people you are not going to get the luxury of simply going to sleep.
The other thing that stood out to me today, after we listened to the family members and after we listened to the prosecutors in particular, it sounded to me, Chris, like they felt comfortable with the idea that Moussaoui was a guy who really wanted to be a big player, was probably more of a bit player in a larger scale event.
And unfortunately for all the families that suffered loss on that day that guy probably could have stepped in and prevented it. And instead, he will get what they say he deserves and that is life behind bars, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What did you make, Kevin, of his comment on his way out of courtroom? This is Zacarias Moussaoui and what he said, he said America you lost. Now, just looking through this as sort of a tragic or mawkish game. If he was gaming that jury by saying OK, give me capital punishment because that‘s what I want.
They denied that to him because, as you said, the looked upon putting to death by sleeping, by injection as sort of a nice way to go. Do you think he gamed them into giving him life?
CORKE: That‘s a very interesting question. My gut says no. My gut says that here is a guy who was bit of an egomaniac. He probably wanted—and in watching him and in listening to his testimony, he seemed to me to be a guy that really wanted to go out in a blaze of glory on the big stage, a guy who probably was not a key player. And yet wanted to act like and feel like that.
And by getting death, he certainly would have gone down in the books in that manner. So his suggestion that, oh, you lost, you Americans are weak, that sort of thing, I thinks that is Monday morning quarterbacking. And fine, he can do that all he wants. He can do that at super max or wherever he is sent.
MATTHEWS: That‘s unlikely.
You know, one of the things that was discussed in this case—and it is a little bit odd that we are talking about as news people—but remember he was saying—it was getting out at least through some way that he thought six months on death row with, you know, steak and French fries every night and waffles for breakfast beat the hell out of 20 or 30 years in solitary. Did that play a part in his game?
CORKE: You know, that‘s a very good question also because I heard that, and I thought to myself in listening to the verdict today I wonder if he really sort of thought, gee, you know, death penalty wouldn‘t have been so bad. You get 20 years of appeals. Yada, yada, yada. That wouldn‘t have even happened. Maybe he was thinking that.
Had it been the death penalty it would have been a done deal. I am sure people would have appealed. But you know what? Eventually he would have been on his way, it seems to me. But the fact is now he doesn‘t get that luxury. He doesn‘t get the steak and fries. He‘s going to be guy who is going to die in relative anonymity.
And I think that, Chris, hurts him as much as anything. Because I think he wants to be big and in fact he is going to die a very small and solitary death.
MATTHEWS: When everyone has forgotten about it.
As someone who has been covering this trial for all these weeks now, 40 some hours, seven days of deliberations, Kevin, did you get a sense that the mere length, the fact that they stayed in there so long, meant they couldn‘t agree on the worst punishment?
CORKE: Absolutely. That is exactly what I was thinking, especially when you compare it to the McVeigh trial. I think they deliberated around 29, maybe 30 hours at the most, in the death penalty phase of that particular trial.
This one goes about 41, 42 hours. You really begin to get the sense that this is probably not a circumstance of, you know, 11 people just trying to turn one. It sounded to me—and in fact, in reading more of this, it sounds to me, Chris, like we had a very divided jury. It was probably more like 7-5, 6-4 -- I‘m sorry 6-6.
So to me, in reading this and as we went further along it sounded to me like look, they‘re not going to come to a decision on this thing. It‘s going to be life in prison.
MATTHEWS: I am killing you with these questions. But one last one because I‘m fascinated personally. Was Moussaoui driven mostly by a religion, Islam, his version of it, perhaps a tortured version of it? Was he driven by hatred of society? He had a bad life, a bad father, an orphanage growing up. What do you think drove this man to wanting to be part and be seen as part of the worst crime in history?
CORKE: Yes, that‘s one of the questions the they were asked—the jurors were asked, the panel about mitigating factors. Did they feel like his rough upbringing, you know, played a part in all of this? And surprisingly, at least for me, the jury seemed sympathetic. You know, nine of them said, yes, you know what? This guy did have a rough upbringing, you know, the orphanages and the abusive father and that sort of thing.
But my perspective on this and watching him and in listening to this case, I got the sense that this is a man who really just wanted to be a part of a group of jihadists, quite frankly, people that had an axe to grind. They wanted to get out and punish America for what they felt like were its policies in the Middle East.
And keep in mind, this is a guy who also in spite of all of the things that happened, Chris, had many opportunities along the way to sort of change his mind. He was exposed to American culture. He had a chance to sort of see the good and the bad of this nation, and yet he chose to continue to go down a particular path.
Unfortunately, for law enforcement while they got there, they kept him incarcerated on the fateful day. Unfortunately, we weren‘t able to get to him in time and prevent that awful tragedy. But, yes, I think in watching him a lot, I think, he got what he deserved, and I think he got probably what he wanted ultimately.
MATTHEWS: Wow. What an irony, thank you very much Kevin Corke.
Stick with us.
I want to go right now to one of the top reporters in this city, Mike Isikoff.
You have been covering this whole matter of 9/11, of course the war we went into in Iraq and how it all fits together. What is the role of this trial?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NEWSWEEK: Well, I think Kristin Breitweiser put the nail on the head right there. What this trial ought to do at this point provoke a debate and discussion and concentration on why we haven‘t tried the people who were responsible for 9/11.
This entire Moussaoui trial was a side show. The Justice Department indicted him at the time, they thought he might have been the 20th hijacker. They later learned he was not. But there was a feeling, that for altogether understandable reasons, that the country needed a trial, the cathartic effect of a trial to deal with the most horrific crime in American history.
But the point is that after the time that they indicted Moussaoui, we came to get into custody the people who were directly responsible for that crime, the architect, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Rahmsi bin al Shehhi (ph), who was Mohammed Atta‘s collaborator at every step of the way—twice in 2001, Atta leaves the country to consult with Rahmsi bin al Shehhi about the for the attack—the financier who was also in custody, Qualli bin Atassh (ph) who helped planned it at the Malaysia meeting.
But the government has been completely stymied about what do to with these people. Why—and this is the one where it is really worth connecting the dots. It goes straight into the White House, the oval office and the vice president‘s office because key decisions were made about aggressive interrogation techniques that were going to be used on these people.
And that included techniques such as water boarding and others that were authorized at the highest levels of the government that people within the government knew could be construed as torture and as in violation of international legal standards.
And once those decisions were made, it became a real obstacle and problem to figure out how can we ever put these people on trial. Because any kind of trial you put on, whether it is in the civil courts or by military tribunal, you still have to give them lawyers, you still have to give them an opportunity to explore and raise the questions of how they were treated.
And those decisions about how they were treated went straight in, you know, Alberto Gonzales and the White House counsel‘s office. David Addington in the vice president‘s office made decisions about how these people would be treated.
MATTHEWS: Bottom line, are you saying the government, based upon your reporting, is covering up for top officials all the way up to the vice president and that is preventing them from prosecuting these bad guys who were involved with 9/11?
ISIKOFF: I‘m saying there are really difficult decisions about what you do, about how you handle this, but we haven‘t had a discussion. There hasn‘t been a Congressional inquiry into this, there hasn‘t been a full public debate about this really naughty question of what we‘re going to do with the people who were responsible for the worst crime in American history.
MATTHEWS: Kristin, I‘m going to ask you because they‘re the same three names you mentioned, starting with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11. What is your reaction to what Michael just said about the motivation that is keeping us from a trial for these people, the real perpetrators of 9/11?
BREITWEISER: Listen, I—more than anything, I‘m pleased that Mike confirmed. This is a debate that needs to be discussed, and I hope people like you and Mike will question members of the administration and members of Congress who have condoned this.
And the questions you need to ask are, you know, did we garner valuable information that literally, truthfully prevented attacks? Have we harmed our CIA covert ops‘ abilities to infiltrate behind enemy lines without having the Geneva Conventions in their back pocket? What did we really learn from these interrogation techniques? Did it really benefit us? Because—and also how did it harm us in the world community? How is the rest of the world looking at us right now?
We‘re supposed to be a free, democratic, fair and just society. When you look at the cost benefit and you balance all of the facts surrounding the interrogation techniques that flowed with or without the White House‘s approval, I think we‘re going to learn that it is not the answer.
And I think we also going to learn that it has barred our ability, particularly the 9/11 families‘ abilities, to hold anyone accountable when it comes to holding the actual al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And I think that that is a true travesty of justice.
ISIKOFF: Michael, you talked about the fact or the evidence that suggested the administration‘s hesitant to bring to trial three people who were actually the perpetrators of 9/11. Who is making that decision? Attorney General Gonzales? Where does that go up to?
ISIKOFF: No—yes, I think what we‘re really talking about is a non-
decision. There have been people in the administration for some time that
realize this is a real issue. This is, yes, a big issue. We‘ve got these
people. What is the end game? What are we going to do with them? And how
MATTHEWS: Where is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the top guy, the architect of 9/11?
ISIKOFF: Well, you know, the government will not answer that question. It will—it has—I don‘t think it will even—you know, it will barely, I think, for the first time in this trial, sort of publicly confirm because they put into evidence—well, I guess during the 9/11 Commission also—that we do have him in custody. Of course we have him in custody.
But no, there‘s been no—nobody from the 9/11 Commission had access to him. Nobody from Congress has had access to him. The FBI hasn‘t had access to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He has been handled—this has been the most—this is the biggest secret in the American government, about where these people are and how they are being treated.
And that‘s what makes this such a very difficult situation, because here you have this huge, public spectacle of the Moussaoui trial. You know, I mean, we have Paul McNulty, the deputy attorney general, talking about, you know, how—you know, the crime of 9/11 and trying to put on the—you know, the freight of, you know, Zacarias Moussaoui, how he answered to the FBI when the evidence was Moussaoui didn‘t even know any of the hijackers.
He didn‘t know Mohamed Atta. He had no information so far as we can tell about when the attacks were going to take place, where they were going to take place, who was going to perpetrate them. He was in contact with a guy we did have in custody—we do have in custody, Ramzi Binalshibh.
MATTHEWS: Where is he?
ISIKOFF: He is the coordinator. Probably somewhere when Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is, but we don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: What was his role in 9/11, Ramzi?
ISIKOFF: Ramzi Binalshibh was the conduit to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Osama bin Laden. He‘s delivering the messages. As I said before, in July of 2001, Atta leaves the country to meet with Ramzi Binalshibh in Spain so they can give the final, you know, green light on here is when with the attack is going to be, and here‘s how it‘s going to take place.
So they‘re consulting regularly about the attacks. That puts him as one of the main players in the conspiracy. But he‘s—there isn‘t a single talk about putting him on trial, Ramzi Binalshibh.
MATTHEWS: Going back to the politics of these, you point out what does make sense, whether it‘s true or not—you are not sure it‘s true—that a motive for the administration in making such a show trial out of Moussaoui, this Moussaoui case that came to an end today, they were deflecting and offering a sideshow to distract attention from the failure to proceed and catch the people and put on trial the people who actually led to 9/11.
ISIKOFF: I don‘t think I‘d put it quite like that.
MATTHEWS: Well, put it your way.
ISIKOFF: Because when they indicted Moussaoui, I think there was a
legitimate belief that he might have been the 20th hijacker, and therefore
and he certainly was an al Qaeda guy. He certainly came here with the intention of killing as many Americans as he could. There was no question that, you know, we had a bad guy who deserved to be put on trial.
But the connection to 9/11 was pretty tenuous. And, you know—and it became more tenuous as we learned more, as we got Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, they were able to tell, their interrogators, that look, we never—this guy wasn‘t a part of the plot. He wasn‘t a guy who we ever intended to use. He was kind of a little bit unable, and we had our doubts about him. We didn‘t want to use him for such a sensitive operation.
That was part of the information they were getting from these guys, so all of that combined made it less trial make it less—you know, it made this trial make less and less sense. And as time went on, the question is, OK, if he wasn‘t the guy who did it, what are we going to do with the people who did?
MATTHEWS: What is interesting Kristin and Michael, is that the president issued a statement tonight followed the verdict, the life imprisonment for Zacarias Moussaoui. And the interesting thing is, he doesn‘t mention anything like what you‘re talking about. He doesn‘t say there‘s three more big, bad guys out there involved in the actual perpetration ...
ISIKOFF: More than three by the way. It‘s probably about a half a dozen.
MATTHEWS: Well, the big names you both mentioned. He doesn‘t precede it like we‘ve got three more to go at least. He makes it sound like this is the end of the effort to punish those involved in 9/11.
Kristin, your reaction to that?
BREITWEISER: You know, first of all, I‘d just like to clarify that Ramzi Binalshibh made a self-admission on Al-Jazeera that he participated in the 9/11 attacks. So it‘s not even like it would be a difficult trial. It‘s not like there‘s a tenuous connection there. He made a self-admission, and yet we‘re not prosecuting him. I think that speaks for itself in how we are failing to prosecute terrorists.
And with regard to the president‘s comments, I think that it shows that he is clearly not in touch with what it takes to prosecute terrorists. I think for him to say that we‘re all said and done, you know, game over, is ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: You seem—Kristin, I have known you—I was spending a lot of time with you back in the days just after 9/11, and not for awhile now. What has been your reflection on 9/11 and the loss of your husband at the World Trade Center in the months previous to today? Have you felt more angry at this administration or have you learned more? What‘s your sort of state of mind right now?
BREITWEISER: I think, frankly, I‘m scared. I‘m scared with the ineptitude and the lack of understanding, the lack of, you know, depth to look longer than today. You know, you are talking about—just speaking specifically with the terror interrogation protocols, you are talking about a bunch of people that sat in a room and weren‘t thinking, “What are we are going to do with these guys a year down the line? What are we going to do with these guys two years down the line?”
All they cared about was the next 10 days. And I think that shows that this administration is very short sighted. They are not looking longer term, they‘re not planning. They‘re not being even introspective.
And I think that‘s what scares me the most because I know we have done so little to make this nation safer. We have not learned any lessons. And more than anything, my husband is dead. We have not held one person accountable. In fact, we have actually promoted people within our own government who failed to protect people like my husband that day. And to me, I find that scary, just flat out scary.
MATTHEWS: Michael, let me go back to your—that is certainly a powerful emotion from someone who has been affected so personally by this - - you‘re a reporter, you‘re covering this story. The tentacles of reporting right now, are they reaching out? Certainly the CIA case you‘ve been involved with.
But the questions of why we went to war with Iraq. Is there a parallel here? You say the Zacarias Moussaoui case ended up being a spotlight on someone who may not have been directly involved in 9/11? Was the war with Iraq like that too, the need for a big, bad guy, something to sort of give the country an emotional satisfaction after 9/11?
ISIKOFF: Sure. I think that that would—if you go back and research as I‘ve been doing, the decision to go to war and what the political climate was, it was very much of we hadn‘t done enough to react to respond, to—it was almost too easy. It happened too quickly. We didn‘t get Osama, but the Taliban fell, but we needed to do more. This was too big a crime to respond.
One other point, though. Accountability, there is a CIA report about 9/11 and who was responsible for the failures of 9/11 -- never been publicly released. I think that this may increase pressure to do that.
MATTHEWS: I think Kristin‘s going to keep up that pressure. Kristin, we‘ll see you back at 7:00 Eastern tonight on our second edition of HARDBALL tonight. The full hour of the program, with reactions to the Moussaoui verdict from Rudy Giuliani, plus 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, and more. MSNBC‘s coverage of the Moussaoui verdict continues now on “THE ABRAMS REPORT.” Thank you Michael Isikoff, here‘s Dan.
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