'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, September 12, 2011
Read the transcript to the Monday show
Past transcripts by month
Guests: E.J. Dionne, Joe Cirincione, Ali Soufan
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, "THE LAST WORD": David, I`m sorry. We have
to wrap it there. We invaded Rachel Maddow`s time.
David Weprin, the Democrat, trying to win Anthony Weiner`s seat in
York -- thank you very much for joining us tonight.
WEPRIN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And as we know, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is up right now.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Lawrence, I take that as a friendly invasion.
Thank you very much, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Never to happen again.
MADDOW: I enjoy it really. No worry. I do it to Ed every single
night, unfortunately, without trying to, so I can never complain about this
ever. Anyway, thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
The tiny little town of Mendon, Vermont, has a big problem right now.
It is a problem that most other towns across the country do not have and it
is a problem that Mendon, itself, did not have until recently. This right
here is the main highway that runs through Mendon, Vermont. It`s called
As you can see, it`s a scenic little road lined by forests on both
sides. That`s what Route 4 look like up until a couple weeks ago.
Here`s what it looks like now. Oh, instead of a nice, scenic road,
it`s now a thing that used to be a road but is now mostly just a river.
When hurricane Irene barreled up the East Coast a couple of weeks ago,
it took most of that stretch of Route 4 in Vermont with it. The road
vanished into the floodwaters and this -- look at this -- this is what is
left over Route 4.
And that is a big problem if you live in that area and use Route 4
every day to get to work or to get to school or get to the grocery store.
You know, you say problem, and Vermonters say challenge. If you
commute along Route 4 and there aren`t other roads to drive on as a detour,
what do you do, when your primary means of getting to work and home and
back again as gone away? Vermonters it turns out hike through the woods.
Residents in central Vermont found a half-mile-long path through the
forest. Just a trail, really that allows them to bypass that crumbled out
stretch of Route 4 that we just showed and that they used to depend on.
Every day now, hundreds of people who live in central Vermont in that area
walk about a half mile through the woods to get to their job or their
school on the other side.
This is their new commute. This sort of resourcefulness in the face
of disaster has inspired a rather heartwarming local all for one/one for
all response in Vermont.
As "The New York Times" reported today, with little hearts in its
eyes, quote, "Porta-Pottys donated by A1 Sewer and Drain have been placed
at each end of the forest trail. Volunteers sit under tent canopies
supplied by Celebration Rentals giving out sandwiches, beverages,
doughnuts, gummy bears and red licorice. Six golf carts" which you just
saw a moment ago, "from Green Mountain National Golf Course transport the
elderly and the infirm. All terrain vehicles from Central Vermont
Motorcycles and the Hendy Brothers John Deere dealership are used for
So, on the one hand, this is a nice one community pulling together
sort of story. Central Vermont, I love you.
But, on the other hand, this is a real problem. If you can`t walk
through the woods or you don`t want to, this would be your detour route by
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to take Route 7 to Route 103, then get
on 91 north via Springfield, then on to Interstate 89 until the Woodstock
exit, which brings you back to Route 4 and into Killington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So to get from here to here, you have to go here. Not ideal.
So the central Vermont town of Mendon, they have a heartwarming tale
to tell. But they also have that heartwarming tale to tell because they do
have a problem. That road really needs to be fixed and it needs to be
fixed fast. That hike through the woods is going to be a whole other
metaphor when the snow starts falling in Vermont.
Luckily for those Vermonters who are commuting by walking through the
woods, help may be on the way. After initially balking at the idea of
approving additional disaster funds without cutting something else in the
budget, House Republicans in Washington now appear to have caved.
Hurricane Irene disaster relief for places like Vermont may be authorized
by Congress next week.
You want to know who else is going through an incredibly elaborate
long-distance detour to their regular commute right now? It`s people who
need to cross the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky. On Friday,
unexpectedly, the state of Indiana shut down the Sherman Minton Bridge.
The Sherman Minton Bridge connects southern Indiana, the town of New Albany
in southern Indiana, to the city of Louisville, Kentucky. Indiana is in
charge of the bridge that spans the two states.
The bridge was not shut down in this case because of some big storm
like Hurricane Irene. The bridge was shut down in this case because it was
deemed too dangerous to be kept open. Inspection crews found a crack in a
load bearing part of this 50-year-old bridge and they decided they need to
close down this bridge for at least three weeks for further diagnosis.
Every day, 80,000 vehicles use that bridge to cross the Ohio River. Those
commuters are being diverted to two other bridges in the area, making what
used to be a 20-minute commute now more like a two-hour commute and, of
course, it`s adding to the aging process of the other two bridges to which
traffic is being diverted.
The mayor of Jeffersonville, Indiana, is now urging motorists who need
to go to downtown Louisville from southern Indiana to instead consider
crossing the Ohio River in Madison, Indiana. That`s about 35 miles out of
The folks who use that bridge to get to work every day need it fixed
and need it fixed now.
You may remember last week during his address to the joint session of
Congress, President Obama specifically mentioned a Kentucky bridge over the
Ohio River that desperately need repair. That was a different Kentucky
bridge over the Ohio River that also desperately needs repair. That was
the Brent Spence Bridge that links Kentucky with Ohio. That one also needs
to be repaired. It recently has been dropping concrete chunks on to its
In fact, there are lots of bridges across the country that need to be
repaired. More than 69,000 American bridges are deemed structurally
deficient by the Federal Highway Administration.
Should we fix those bridges? Shouldn`t we fix those bridges?
Shouldn`t we fix those bridges is essentially the argument for the
infrastructure portion of the American Jobs Act which President Obama
officially sent to Congress earlier tonight. Shouldn`t we fix those
bridges? Shouldn`t we fix these roads and bridges that need fixing in
For two reasons. One, because we need them to be fixed. There is no
lovely wooded path staffed by volunteers with golf carts who are going to
give you gummy bears that`s going to take you across the Ohio River. These
things need to be fixed.
But, also paying to fix these things now will pay people to do the
fixing, which will mean those people are employed and getting paid to do
that fixing, which will mean those people can in turn pay for other things
which will mean money going into other businesses which will make the
That is the whole idea of economically stimulative spending. You
don`t give money to rich people. They`re just going to put it in the bank.
They don`t need to spend it right away. They have a cushion.
But if you pay for work, from people like unemployed construction
workers and otherwise unemployed people, they don`t have a cushion. They
will be spending the money they`re earning now because they need to which
is economically stimulative, which is a tide that lifts all boats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m standing with
construction workers. We got roads that need work all over the country.
Our highways are backed up with traffic. Our airports are clogged. And
there are millions of unemployed construction workers who can rebuild them.
So let`s pass this bill so road crews and diggers and pavers and
workers, they can all head back to the job site. There`s plenty of work to
do this job --- this jobs bill will help them do it. Let`s put them back
to work. Let`s pass this bill rebuilding America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was President Obama in the Rose Garden of the White
House today stressing the urgency of getting this jobs bill passed now.
Mr. Obama gave a speech introducing this legislation on Thursday. On
Friday, he spoke about the plan in Eric Cantor`s district in Richmond,
Virginia. Today, after the Rose Garden speech, he delivered his bill to
Tomorrow, he`ll be in Columbus, Ohio -- Ohio, of course, the home of
Republican House Speaker John Boehner. The day after that, he`ll be
talking about this in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
And at all of these stops, President Obama is saying not just let`s
pass this bill, but let`s pass this bill right now. Let`s pass this bill
soon. Let`s pass this bill right away.
There is a very palpable sense of urgency from President Obama and the
White House on this.
Republicans on the other hand, so far, the reaction from congressional
Republicans has been sort of smirking but noncommittal, saying that they
will get around to looking at the legislation in due course. They want
everything to go through the regular committee process. They can`t really
do anything until it`s been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, and
so, they`re asking for that to happen. They`d like to take their time with
Meanwhile, people who live in southern Indiana and work in Louisville,
Kentucky, will leave for work tomorrow morning two hours earlier than they
usually do, taking a long detour while watching one of this nation`s aging
and crumbling bridges slowly fall apart.
Joining us, E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist and senior fellow
at the Brookings Institution. E.J., it`s good to see you. Thanks for
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: It`s great to be here to discuss
radical left wing ideas like building roads and fixing schools and bridges.
It must be socialism. It`s really amazing, isn`t it?
MADDOW: Well, the president keeps talking about how, you know, this
used to be the kind of idea that wasn`t that controversial. This used to
be the kind of idea the Democrats and Republicans could come together on.
Is he right in pointing that out as a means of making the case that it
could be that way again?
DIONNE: As a historical matter, he certainly is right. I mean, who
did more to build roads in this country than Dwight Eisenhower? He put
through the Interstate Highway System.
Republicans -- I used to cover the state legislature in New York, and
Republicans would often say, we don`t want to spend money on welfare, we
want to do the things government ought to like build roads, like build
transit -- and so, yes, for then. But you`ve had a Republican Party that`s
just retreated from government.
Now, I think they`re a little scared of, say, a 13 percent approval
rating for Congress. They know some of this stuff is popular. And
building roads and fixing schools is popular.
But what I`m worried about is what you alluded to in the introduction,
which they`re not this time going to say these are awful ideas the
president put forward, because a lot of them really are very moderate
Republican sort of ideas including tax cuts. They`re going to delay and
take their time. Maybe cut it down to size, so it doesn`t have a big
effect. And maybe just put in some poison pills like have some anti-labor
and anti-environmental sections to get rid of certain regulations.
And that`s where I`m worried that this whole thing could get gummed up
in that kind of process. And it would be a shame because we could push the
economy forward with this.
MADDOW: Does the president and the -- do congressional Democrats have
any leverage to prevent that from happening?
DIONNE: Well, first of all, it`s good to see the president out there
not only on the first day but now for three days running say pass this
bill. He`s notably not saying, oh, I am looking forward to working with
Speaker Boehner, we can find some kind of solution. He`s got a specific
proposal out there.
And I think what he`s done here in some ways is flip the politics from
the old stimulus package because if they don`t pass this, he can now say
that we could have been better off in you had passed this.
So, I think the politics are a little better, but it`s still going to
be rough to get it through. But at least he`s making a fight this time.
And I hope he sticks with it.
MADDOW: Let me quote you something a very wise man wrote today, E.J.
"The president has offered eloquent offenses of the role of government in
the past only to revert to bipartisan fantasies that in the end always make
him look weaker. The central question for his jobs plan and his future is
whether this time he sticks with an analysis of the nature of our political
fight that sees it as it is, not as he wishes it were."
The wise man who wrote that today is, of course, E.J. Dionne.
What did you mean by seeing it as it is, not as he wishes it were?
DIONNE: Well, see, I think the Republican Party has changed
fundamentally. It`s been taken over by a kind of radical individualism and
a view of government that Republicans historically have not taken. I was
very happy to see the president quote Abraham Lincoln. But you don`t have
to go all the way back to Lincoln.
And they are in a very different place right now and you have
Republicans who really believe that it`s more important to stop certain
things from happening even if it causes a lot of trouble the way the whole
fight over the debt ceiling caused it, to make sure you defeat this set of
sort of radical lefties in power.
So I think it is a very different Republican Party and the president
acted as if he thought it was the old Republican Party. For now, he seems
to be acting as if he understands what he`s really up against this time.
MADDOW: Do you think that it`s resonating with a base and with beyond
a base, a sort of Democratic broad electorate who has criticized the
president tactically for conciliating too much, for giving up too much, for
being too unreasonable against an unreasonable opponent?
O`DONNELL: Mark Schmitt had an interesting piece in "The New
Republic" where he referred to the president`s fighting bipartisanship as
opposed to other kinds of bipartisanship. I think the base likes the fact
that this package to get the economy moving is bigger than they expected it
to be and they like the fact he`s fighting for it.
But the ideas, themselves, are fundamentally bipartisan. So, you had
the odd spectacle of Paul Krugman and David Brooks both praising this. You
know, one liked the bipartisan side. The other liked the fighting side.
So maybe he can win re-election.
MADDOW: E.J. Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and
"Washington Post" columnist -- stick a pin in that. We will be coming back
to that assertion momentarily I`m sure.
E.J., thank you so much.
DIONNE: Thank you so much. Take care.
MADDOW: So, the interview tonight is someone who before now had only
ever been able to testify to Congress from behind a screen that shielded
his identity. He`s now out of the undercover counterterrorist world he has
been living in for the better part of a decade and he`s here tonight in
I`m very much looking forward to this. That is coming up.
MADDOW: One of the side effects of the nuclear age is nuclear waste.
When used as directed, nuclear power produces nuclear waste, which is hard
to get rid of just if you`re trying to dispose of it. And, of course, it`s
expensively dangerous to have around, to maintain anywhere, because it`s
And in some cases, it could make rather nicely horrific radioactive
bomb material. There was an explosion at a nuclear waste site in France
today. One person was killed in that explosion and four people were
According to French nuclear safety authorities and police there was no
radiation leak at this nuclear waste processing facility. Within hours of
the explosion, authorities said the episode was over, contained, finished.
The utility that owns the plant called it, quote, "an industrial
accident, not a nuclear one." A French nuclear safety official said the
explosion took place in the oven where the plant was melting down used
mildly radioactive metal objects. Quote, "This is very, very low, nothing
close to the radioactivity you would find inside a nuclear power plant."
So, a lot of folks in the south of France are being told today
essentially to breathe a sigh of relief that today`s explosion took place
in an oven disposing of only mildly radioactive metal objects.
Closer to home, you may recall that during last month`s major
earthquake on the U.S. East Coast, the North Anna nuclear power station in
Virginia went into automatic shutdown. During the shutdown, backup diesel
generators kicked in to keep North Anna`s nuclear fuel cool.
It wasn`t until days after that we learned the earthquake that shook
the North Anna plant was more than it was designed to handle. The North
Anna power station was not built to withstand the level of shaking that
resulted from the earthquake that happened last month. The first time that
happened in the U.S.
The North Anna station was about 11 miles away from the epicenter of
that earthquake. The earthquake that made the shaking it was not design to
That nuclear power plant at the epicenter of the earthquake is about
60 miles away from the city of Richmond, Virginia. It`s about 100 miles
away from Washington, D.C. U.S. nuclear safety authorities say in light of
the North Anna incident, they are working on new safety standards for
America`s nuclear power plants to cope with natural disasters like
earthquakes and floods.
In the meantime, you may have noticed natural disasters continue and
do not always bother to check which nuclear power plants are designed to
In February of last year, the state Senate in the great state of
Vermont voted to close down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in 2012,
next year, when its current license is up. This week, the state of Vermont
and Entergy, the company that owns the power plant, are going to court over
Federal nuclear authorities did give the power plant a new license.
And the company that owns the plant thinks the state of Vermont shouldn`t
get any say over whether or not there will be a 40-year-old nuclear power
plant operating in the state of Vermont for 20 more years. They say that
license should be enough to keep them open no matter what Vermont wants.
So, the state of Vermont deciding they as a state wanted to send this
nuclear power plant packing once its 40-year license expired. Now, the
state of Vermont has to prove to a federal judge that they have a right to
make that decision as a state which means we are about to find out who has
more power in this country right now -- a nuclear power plant company or a
Joining us now is Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund,
which is a global security foundation. Joe also serves on Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton`s international security advisory board. He`s also a
member of the Council of Foreign Relations.
Mr. Cirincione, thank you for being here.
JOE CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first about Vermont. The state of Vermont in
federal court now is trying to prove it has the power to send Vermont
Yankee packing. Do you have any idea what`s going to happen in this case?
CIRINCIONE: No. We don`t. That`s what makes it so interesting. You
have to understand what`s going on here. The state says it has real
concerns about the safety of the plant. The company says that doesn`t
A state doesn`t have power to shut a nuclear power reactor over
nuclear safety concerns because the federal government is the only entity
that has that power. That`s in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
So, as long as the NRC, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says it`s
OK, it overrules the state. So, the state is saying, Vermont is saying it
has other concerns. For example, that the plant was leaking radioactive
tritium several years ago. And when they discovered this, the reactor
company lied about it, that the plant is so expensive to operate that
they`re afraid that the company is just going to walk away and leave
Vermont holding the bag for potentially billions of dollars of cleanup.
So, this contest is going to set a precedent for whether states can
use economic concerns or concerns about liability of the plant as reasons
to close the power plant that no one in the state actually wants operating.
MADDOW: Joe, the larger issue that this gets at is that Vermont
Yankee feels like a very old plant, getting to the end of its 40-year
licensure, which is the reason the NRC was even considering it for a re-
licensure. But these things, as we know, were designed with a 40-year life
span in mind. And that`s essentially the vintage of all nuclear power
plants in the United States.
These are also the similar age and similar design to the reactors in
Fukushima. Do you think it`s legitimate to have safety concerns about the
aging of these plants?
CIRINCIONE: Absolutely. In fact, there`s evidence that the power
company, itself, has these concerns because there may be plans to sell the
plant to a brand new company that`s been set up at the state of Vermont
doesn`t believe has the capital to actually operate it. So, we could be
seeing essentially a dumping of the plant, and one of the reasons that the
company is suing Vermont to stop it is they don`t want the state to stand
in the way of the financial operation that would relieve them of liability
to run what they are now looking at as a nuclear white elephant.
MADDOW: In terms of the North Anna plant in Virginia --
CIRINCIONE: Oh, yes.
MADDOW: -- it was a week after the earthquake before we found out the
plant had been shaken more than it was designed to handle. We were told
initially that the automatic shutdown runs smoothly, that the diesel
generators kicked in smoothly and that there was no danger because it was
designed to withstand stronger shaking than it went through.
It turns out the last part, how much it was designed to withstand in
terms of shaking was not what they initially told us. How worrisome is
that to you?
CIRINCIONE: Well, the plant is still shut down, and it`s still not
operating. And there are great concerns about whether the plant can safely
operate. The NRC, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is planning a special
inspection of that facility.
I think you have to be very worried about this. And this is why the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission just last month issued a task force report
with a series of pretty good recommendations saying that, for example, all
plants in the United States should re-evaluate their construction based on
what we now know about the higher than we thought likelihood of things like
earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes -- all of which have hit us in
just the past few months and have effected operations at nuclear power
The concern is that the commission, itself, won`t actually act on the
recommendations of its task force. Some of the members more friendly to
the nuclear power industry understand that what the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission is proposing is going to cost the industry money. They want to
keep their profits high, costs low.
So, you may see an effort to delay and delay and delay the safety
MADDOW: Hearing those concerns from you, Joe, about safety
regulations in general in the U.S., about the North Anna plant, about the
Vermont Yankee situation -- on the other side of this, am I right to think
that you think there`s no real radioactive or nuclear risk associated with
that French incident today that got so much attention?
CIRINCIONE: Well, the French incident I think actually was what the
French said, an industrial accident. It`s never good to have an explosion
at a nuclear facility. This is a facility that makes the highly
controversial fuel, MOX, mixed oxide fuel, that has plutonium in it -- a
very expensive, dangerous fuel. It doesn`t appear the fuel, itself, caused
the explosion. We still don`t know what the cause is.
One thing we know about accidents at nuclear plants is we never get
the right story on the first day, whether it`s Three Mile Island or
Chernobyl or Fukushima or now France. We`re probably going to have to wait
a couple of weeks or so. The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency,
has asked for a special inspection of that facility.
Let me just add -- this comes at a very inappropriate time as far as
global nuclear power industries are concerned. Tomorrow, the IAEA is set
to take up a series of recommendations to increase safety regulations at
plants globally. It`s recommendations that France doesn`t want to see
I think this accident, even if it`s nonnuclear, is going to have an
impact and raise concerns of most of the agencies` members.
MADDOW: Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a man who
I have to say -- he rumors that you have, it`s never a good idea to have an
explosion at a nuclear facility. The rumors that you have that tattooed on
your back in Latin, I can tell everybody that`s not true. But thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
CIRINCIONE: Thank you for having me on.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. The interview tonight, with former FBI counterterrorism a
agent Ali Soufan, who is the major part of the reason why we as a country
know literally how we find out that al Qaeda was behind 9/11. The story of
why he left the government since then is as amazing as the story of what he
did in government.
That is coming up.
MADDOW: There was a reason why President Obama gave his joint session
address to Congress last Thursday and not Wednesday. There was a reason
why upon the president`s request to speak before both houses of Congress on
Wednesday. There`s a reason why the Speaker of the House John Boehner, the
man who controls the schedule, responded to that Wednesday request by
saying no. There was a very specific reason.
Was it a good reason? I will let you be the judge. That`s coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In May 1998, Osama bin Laden gave a press conference. Not
the most accessible press conference in the world. Bin Laden declared war
on America, again. Only a few handpicked journalists were there.
But that press conference in 1998 did give us these fantastically
overused photos of Osama bin Laden in a very fetching camouflage vest
sitting in front of a dramatic looking banner. The banner he is sitting in
front of is the flag of al Qaeda. Black banner, white Arabic writing.
In Islam, the Hadif are the descriptions of things the Prophet
Mohammed said or did during his lifetime. One of the Hadifs says, if you
see the black banners coming from Khurasan, join that army, even if you
have to crawl over ice, no power will able to stop them.
When Osama bin Laden first declared war in the United States two years
before that `98 press conference, he signed and dated the first declaration
of war August 23rd, 1996 in the Hindu Kush Mountains, Khurasan,
Afghanistan. Khurasan is the historical region that spans part of Iran and
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Bin Laden was in part of Afghanistan that could be considered part of
it but he really wanted to be thought of as a guy in Khurasan. And he gave
his group his black banner, so he could make it seem like his army, his
terrorist group, had been foretold by the Prophet Mohammed more than 1,000
years ago. He didn`t want to be just Osama bin Laden, radical son of
construction billionaire. He wanted to be Osama bin Laden, mighty warrior
prophesied in the seventh century by the great prophet of Islam to lead a
great army that could not be defeated.
And that insight into the self-concept of Osama bin Laden and the
seductive recruitment tactics of al Qaeda gives us the title of Ali
Soufan`s new book "The Black Banners."
Ali Soufan is our guest for the interview tonight. He`s an American
Muslim born in Lebanon. One of only handful of Arabic-speaking FBI agents.
Mr. Soufan joined the bureau in 1997 and brought with him an obsessive
interest in al Qaeda and particularly in Osama bin Laden.
Mr. Soufan was still a rookie. He was in his first year at the FBI
when the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998. When he
asked his FBI supervisor that morning if we knew yet who was responsible
for those bombings, the supervisor replied that it was still unclear, but,
quote, "I think it might be your guy." Meaning it might be Osama bin
Laden, the guy that Ali Soufan, as a rookie in the FBI, had been all over.
Two years later, al Qaeda bombed the USS Cole in Yemen. Ali Soufan
was in Yemen investigating that attack, chasing al Qaeda, chasing bin Laden
when September 11th happened. Within a week of 9/11, Ali Soufan was face
to face with the highest level al Qaeda operative custody anywhere. He was
interrogating bin Laden`s bodyguard and confidant in a prison in Yemen.
That interrogation produced America`s confirmation that al Qaeda and bin
Laden were behind the 9/11 attack.
Within six months, Ali Soufan was face to face with the first high
value al Qaeda operative captured by the United States. He was
interrogating Abu Zubaydah. That interrogation was credited with
identifying the mastermind and leader of the 9/11 attacks, as Khalid Sheikh
But when you get to the part about that interrogation, in Ali Soufan`s
book "Black Banners," it starts to look like this. There`s some writing
for first few pages, right? This is the Abu Zubaydah. You start to see a
few more redactions. And then you get page after page of redacted text.
There`s something in here that somebody still doesn`t want you to
Let me introduce you now to Ali Soufan to explain why. The book is
called "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al
Mr. Soufan, thank you for being here. I know you could be anywhere
for your first live interview. And I`m really grateful that you`re here.
ALI SOUFAN, AUTHOR, "BLACK BANNERS": Thank you for having me. It`s a
MADDOW: Let me start with the specific and broaden out.
Who is responsible for the redactions in your book?
SOUFAN: Well, from the redaction came from the agency, from the CIA.
The book was approved by the FBI. And when we finished the approval
process with the bureau, it took about three months and it was reviewed by
the counterterrorism division. It was reviewed by information security.
We didn`t have one single redaction. So, unfortunately, for some
reason, some people at the agency thought that there`s a national security
need in redacting a lot of the things that you showed.
MADDOW: But you never worked for the CIA?
MADDOW: You worked for the FBI.
SOUFAN: No, never worked for the agency. You know, fortunately for
us, it doesn`t take away from the narrative. It doesn`t take away from the
I mean, people know that I justified, and my statement is the only
statement under oath about what happened with Abu Zubaydah. I testified on
the Senate at that. They know the enhanced interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.
And they his interrogation techniques and what I believe that they didn`t
work. And that`s what I`m trying to say in the book and that`s the
narrative that I`m putting in the book.
And I believe all the threats that`s mentioned in the book are threats
that are already in public domain and all the things that have been
redacted, mostly narrative rather than facts.
MADDOW: In terms of the other people who have talked about the Abu
Zubaydah interrogation, it`s one of those things that discussed by many,
many, many politicians including then-president of the United States George
W. Bush in 2006 --
MADDOW: -- and justifying enhanced interrogation techniques. How did
you get Abu Zubaydah to tell you that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was mastermind
of 9/11? And then how did Abu Zubaydah end up getting waterboarded dozens
SOUFAN: Well, this is interesting, because I actually testified about
this. That we knew that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of 9/11
way before enhanced interrogation techniques were even applied. We knew
that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of 9/11 in April of 2002,
before the contractors even set a foot in the undisclosed location of where
So, just to basically read later that people are claiming it was
waterboarding that produced the information that led us to identify Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind is totally wrong. And, unfortunately,
the same thing with Padilla, you know, the alleged dirty bomber, even
though I believe he`s a brain surgery away from being a dirty bomber, but
that`s a different story.
They claimed it was waterboarding that caused Zubaydah, and you can
see that clearly in the Steven Bradbury memo in OLC, Office Of Legal
Counsel memo, they claimed it`s waterboarding that produced information
that led us to it. Waterboarding did not start until August of 2002, a
couple weeks before. But still, you know, July/August of 2002.
Mr. Padilla was in custody after an international manhunt in May of
2002. So, unless you have a time machine, you`re having a problem, you
know, with keeping the timeline straight.
MADDOW: And when the enhanced interrogation techniques and
waterboarding for happening to Zubaydah, you called FBI headquarters in
Washington to say --
MADDOW: -- to say either I leave or I`ll arrest him. Are you talking
about arresting the guy who was doing the enhanced interrogation technique?
SOUFAN: I was angry I guess.
MADDOW: But the FBI told you to leave?
MADDOW: Saying that we don`t do those kinds of tactics?
SOUFAN: We don`t do these kinds of things. The order came from
Director Mueller. And the FBI since then as an agency did not get involved
in any of the so-called special techniques that were applied on some of the
high valued detainees.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back with more from Ali Soufan, his landmark
new book "Black Banner" is just out today. We`ll be right back with him in
just a moment.
MADDOW: "My hand started shaking. I didn`t know what to think. This
is September 12, 2001. They just sent these reports," the redacted thing
"Seeing my reaction. I walked out the room, sprinted down the
corridor to the bathroom and to a stall. There I threw up. I sat on the
floor a few minutes. Seemed like hours.
What I had just seen going through my mind again and again, the same
thought kept moving back. If they had all this information since January
2000, why the hell didn`t they pass it on? My whole body was shaking.
I heard a SWAT agent asking, `Ali, are you OK?` He had seen me run to
the bathroom and followed me in. `I am fine.` I got myself to the sink,
washed out my mouth and splashed some water on my face. I covered my face
with a paper towel a few moments. I was still trying to process the fact
that the information I requested about major al Qaeda operatives,
information the CIA had claimed they knew nothing about had been in the
agency`s hands since January of 2000.
The SWAT agent asked, `What`s wrong, bud? What the hell did he tell
you?` `They knew, they knew.`"
That is from Ali Soufan`s new book "Black Banners: The Inside Story of
9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda."
Ali Soufan joins us again now.
Ali, when you say they knew, they knew, you`re talking about the CIA
there. What did they know?
SOUFAN: Not as an agency. People there knew. Some people in the
agency knew that Khalid Mihdhar, Nawaf Hazmi were in the United States.
And we were looking to people connected to the USS Cole for a few months,
for about more than a year in Yemen.
And here are two people who we know from our Cole investigation have
met with the person who facilitated the attack and his job was to videotape
the operation, and one of the suicide bombers over the Cole in Southeast
And we put at least three requests for information, not thinking then
they knew. You know, we`re investigating, we`re getting information. We
share the information with everyone. And hoping that any intelligence
agency, law enforcement, you know, anybody who has some information to
share it with us because we`re investigating the death of 17 of our heroic
sailors who perished on October 12th of 2000 on the USS Cole in Yemen.
Unfortunately, nobody told us anything until 10 years to the day,
September 12th. Ten years to the day. I still don`t know the reason why
the information was being withheld. I don`t know if it`s intentional or
not intentional for withholding the information.
I don`t know if people failed to connect the dots as the theory came
or if people dropped the ball. I think there`s a big difference between
the two. But I know that the information was not shared.
And later, the 9/11 Commission came to the same conclusion and the CIA
inspector general report came to the same conclusion that, you know, the
CIA I.G. goes actually further to say that people many the agency failed to
show the information on timely basis with the FBI, with the State
Department, with the Immigration and Naturalization Services, failed to put
the Mihdhar, who was in Flight 77 that flew into the Pentagon in a no-fly
list and so forth.
That doesn`t mean everyone in the agency -- you know, I don`t believe
in conspiracy theories. And some of my very good friends are, you know, in
the agency, in the CIA, as you see in my book.
MADDOW: You`re generous toward the CIA.
SOUFAN: Absolutely. And it`s dedicated for all the heroes of the
CIA, the FBI, the military. You know, when you work with somebody on the
front lines and you`re far away in dangerous areas, you only have each
other to depend on.
So, many of the heroes in the book basically are CIA officers, from
the CIA officer who, you know, tried to get all the information from a
detainee so the detainee cannot be rendered to a CIA officer who actually
walked before me out of the Zubaydah interrogation and came home. He said
that`s not worth it.
To a CIA officer in Guantanamo Bay who basically was a phenomenal
leader in guaranteeing there is no institutional barriers between the
entities down there and all of us work for Uncle Sam. So I have a lot of
great appreciations for the men and women in the CIA and we have to
actually remember one thing, Rachel, that it`s because of the employees of
the CIA, the enhanced interrogation techniques and that program was
It was them who went back and complained to their inspector general
and a lot of complaints happened over the years. And then the inspector
general of the CIA conducted an investigation and reached out --
MADDOW: Based on CIA employee complaints.
SOUFAN: Absolutely. It`s their own inspector general. They came to
the conclusion that, look, the CIA program is excellent.
However, the enhanced interrogation techniques, the CIA inspector
general said they could not verify one single imminent threat that stopped
because of that technique. And basically they talk about how bad that
technique morally, legally and so forth. And that`s why the techniques
were shelved in 2005.
So, we shouldn`t mix waterboarding with the CIA efforts. I mean, the
men and women of the CIA, everyone in this country owe them great thanks
for the service that they do and many of them gave the ultimate sacrifice
for this great country of ours.
MADDOW: Ali Soufan, you changed the narrative about our understanding
of both pre-9/11 and post-9/11 fighting against al Qaeda. Thank you for
writing this book. I know it`s an act of bravery. Thank you for your
SOUFAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Nice to meet you, sir.
SOUFAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Ali Soufan`s incredible new book called is "Black Banners."
It is out today. You can read an excerpt from it at our blog,
Maddowblog.com. We will be right back.
MADDOW: President Obama sent his new jobs plan to Congress today --
the one he`s asking Congress to pass right away. The president said last
week the American Jobs Act would be paid for, everything in it.
On page five of the bill, we start to see how he intends to do that
despite doing things like ending tax breaks for the owners of corporate
jets and for rich oil companies and by limiting itemized deductions for the
wealthiest Americans on their tax returns.
Now, it`s up to Congress to go through the bill and read it, maybe
vote on it. Congress, though, however, you know, is busy. It`s a busy,
A few weeks ago, the White House said the president wanted to give a
major address on unemployment and turning the economy around. The
president wrote to congress saying he would like to deliver that address on
Wednesday night, last Wednesday, to a joint session of Congress. That`s
what a big deal this was -- joint session of Congress. Whoa!
Joint session of Congress, that is a big deal. That`s State of the
Union big. That is starting a war big.
For a president to request a joint session of Congress is a very big
deal. For the Congress to say no to that request is an even bigger deal --
that is unheard of. In response to President Obama`s request to address a
joint session of Congress last Wednesday, Republican Speaker of the House
John Boehner did something that has never been done before in the history
of our nation. He said no. He said it would be inconvenient for the House
because he said there were votes scheduled in the House for Wednesday
night, for last Wednesday night when the president wanted to do his speech.
Mr. Boehner said there would not be enough time after those important
House votes to prepare for the president to come speak.
So, John Boehner said, "No, Mr. President, I will not convene a joint
session of Congress on Wednesday. Why don`t you pick a different day?"
This is unprecedented. No speaker, no Congress has ever said that to
any president in U.S. history. President Obama did move his speech. He
moved it to a different day.
John Boehner`s House of Representatives did convene on Wednesday for
its very, very, very important votes that couldn`t be moved. And now we
know what those Wednesday night votes were that were so important. It
turns out in fact it was just one vote. It was a roll call vote.
It was a roll call vote, quote, "authorizing the use of the capitol
grounds for the District of Columbia special Olympics Law Enforcement torch
run." It`s a charity jogging event that uses the Capitol grounds. They
had to vote whether that was OK for the jogging.
The House, for the record, said yes, it was unanimous. That was the
vote that was so important that it could not be moved. And instead, the
president of the United States had to move his joint address to Congress to
So, incidentally, his speech would share the evening with the opening
game of the NFL football season.
In fairness, I should mention that the House of Representatives did
have one other important business matter that they took care of on
Wednesday night instead of hosting the president of the United States at
his request. In addition to the vote on the Special Olympics torch run,
the House of Representatives that night also took time to congratulation a
girl`s softball team from North Carolina for making the Little League World
Series. I also would like to lend my congratulations.
That was the activity in the House of Representatives on Wednesday
when they could not make time for the president -- one vote and some
nonbinding speechifying. And so, the president had to give his speech the
next night instead of the night he wanted.
The Republican congressman from the South who screamed at President
Obama, "You lie!" in the president`s address in the joint session of
Congress two years ago, that congressman, Joe Wilson, did show up for
President Obama`s speech when it finally happened on Thursday.
But at least four other Republican members of Congress from the South
said before President Obama`s speech that they would not bother to show up.
They would not be there. They didn`t have the time -- because there`s
apparently something about this president that erases the need for whatever
deference congressional Republicans might otherwise feel toward the office
that President Obama holds.
I would love to hear them explain exactly what that is.
In the last Republican candidates` debate, you may recall that Texas
Governor Rick Perry told the nation that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme,
which means it`s a criminal act that should be punished by locking somebody
up and then, of course, it should be ended because it`s a criminal
activity. There has since been another debate co-hosted by CNN and a Tea
Party group that is based out of a Republican P.R. shop in California,
weirdly. That debate is just wrapping up. The highlights and lowlights
brought to you by Ed Schultz right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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