updated 4/9/2004 11:39:41 AM ET 2004-04-09T15:39:41

Guests: Jamie Gorelick, Bob Gore, Kristen Breitweiser, Mindy Kleinberg, Patty Casazza, Lorie Van Auken, Gail Sheedy, Michael Isikoff, Hendrik Hertzberg

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  In highly charged testimony, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice clashes with members of the 9/11 commission today in Washington. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  Isn‘t it a fact, Dr.

Rice, that the August 6 PDB warned against possible attacks in this country.  And I ask you, whether you recall the title of that PDB?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR:  I believe the title was, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.”

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  Bombshell. 

Plus, four gutsy women, the 9/11 widows who fought for the creation of the 9/11 commission, react to Rice‘s testimony. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

After months of legal wrangling, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice appeared today before the 9/11 commission and took an oath to tell the truth.  What did the 9/11 widows who pushed for creation of the commission think of her testimony?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATTY CASAZZ, 9/11 WIDOW:  The only thing that you have left at the end of the day is your integrity.  And clearly, she had all the warnings she needed.  She should have told the president. 

LORIE VAN AUKEN, 9/11 WIDOW:  In “Bush at War,” it was quoted that Bush said, he felt that al Qaeda was important but not urgent.  Whose job is to it convey urgency to the president if not the national security advisor?

MINDY KLEINBERG, 9/11 WIDOW:  Nobody at the FBI knew that this threat was there.  And I would have liked them to continue to ask her.  Because apparently she didn‘t feel that that was her responsibility. 

KRISTEN BREITWEISER, 9/11 WIDOW:  What exactly did she know?  And if she didn‘t know it, then who else would know it? 

It‘s her job to know that information.  It‘s her job to relay that information to the president.  And to actually, in my opinion, in our opinion, to inform the public.  If the public was better informed in the summer of 2001, lives would have been saved. 

(NE VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  More from those gutsy women, four gutsy women, a little later. 

Jamie Gorelick is one of the 9/11 commissioners who questioned Condoleezza Rice today.  She served as deputy attorney general under President Clinton. 

Speaking of whom, you‘ve just come from President Clinton.  Let me ask you a very general question about his presentation.  Did he seem to be a man very much aware of al Qaeda and the threat it posed to the United States?

JAMIE GORELICK, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  I‘m not going to say very much about what he told us, because we‘ve agreed not to.  But it was a very substantive, very engaged and extremely helpful presentation.  And all the commissioners agreed that that was the case. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he seem to be on top of the al Qaeda threat?

GORELICK:  Yes.  But I‘m not going to answer any more questions about what he said. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you what you thought of Condoleezza Rice‘s testimony n general today.  Would you consider it forthcoming or were there questions about where you think she‘s hedging a bit here and there?

GORELICK:  She appeared credible to me.  We clearly have a number of follow-up issues.  It was a very short hearing, relative to the topics we wanted to cover.  I have a lot of follow-up questions for her, but I have no reason to believe that she was hedging the truth. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘ll bet your Richard Ben-Veniste does. 

Let‘s take a look at his very revealing moment here.  I think he was on before you today.  He asked Condoleezza Rice to state the title—this is my favorite question of the day—of the August 6 presidential briefing that was given to the CIA official at the Crawford ranch where the president went on vacation on August of 2001, just about five weeks before 9/11. 

Listen to the name of this briefing paper that was handed to the president at his ranch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN-VENISTE:  Isn‘t it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6 PDB warned against possible attacks in this country?  And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB.

RICE:  I believe the title was “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.”  Now the...

BEN-VENISTE:  Thank you. 

RICE:  No, Mr. Ben-Veniste...

BEN-VENISTE:  I will get into...

RICE:  I would like to finish my point here. 

BEN-VENISTE:  I didn‘t know there was a point. 

RICE:  Given that—You asked me whether or not it warned of attacks. 

BEN-VENISTE:  I asked what you the title was. 

RICE:  You said that—it did not warn of attacks.  It did not warn of attacks inside the United States.  It was historical information based on old reporting.  There was no new threat information and it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Did you know before the actual precise title of that document the president was briefed from?

GORELICK:  Well, you know, Chris, I‘m the only commissioner aside now from the chairman and vice chairman who have seen all the PDB‘s, and I certainly have seen that one and I knew the title. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the title was appropriate?

GORELICK:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  So it was, in fact, a warning or a briefing memo on the possibility of al Qaeda attacking within the United States?

GORELICK:  It basically goes through everything we know that gives an indication of his intention to strike.  It was not—she‘s using the word warning as in he‘s going to fly a plane into the World Trade Center.  It didn‘t do that.  But it did show historically what we knew about him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why did she continue to say our focus was on attacks outside the United States?

GORELICK:  Well, sometimes she said that.  And then other times she said, but we convened all of the domestic advisors.  We had the FBI sending out circulars. 

To be sure, most of the specifics that they were getting, that our country was getting, were about outside the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

GORELICK:  But the intentions to harm us inside the United States, I think, were also quite clear. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re talking about five weeks before 9/11 before hell struck in this country.  And the president of the United States is briefed at his ranch from a document that says bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States. 

I‘m telling you, to me, that sounds like a movie coming attractions statement.  Like you know, coming next month, bin Laden to attack inside the United States. 

If that was on the front page of “The New York Times,” or the “USA Today” or your local newspaper a month before the attack, wouldn‘t the American people say, “Well, let‘s get ready and do something to stop it”? 

GORELICK:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s...

GORELICK:  This is—Look, this particular document was sought by the joint inquiry of Congress, even before the 9/11 commission came into being.  It has been in dispute for a year now.  And we have asked for it to be fully declassified so people can see what it is and is not. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re voting 10-1, 10-0 basically on your committee—commission, to ask them to declassify.  Are you confident we‘re going to all see that document?

GORELICK:  I think if the administration saw this issue sensibly, they would declassify it.  It has now been so discussed and so rumored about...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

GORELICK:  ... and so subject to different interpretations, we have specifically asked for it to be declassified in full.  And it is our view, it would not harm the well being of the security of the United States for it to be declassified. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, just for everybody watching right now, maybe a half million, million people watching right now, I want to try to go through what we know was in it.  The particulars that are in so far.

First the glaring title: “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.” 

GORELICK:  I think it‘s actually “Determined to Strike.” 

MATTHEWS:  OK, good. 

GORELICK:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Want to know that.  Add that to the knowledge base.  Bin Laden liked the results of the ‘93 bombing o the World Trade Center.  He was happy with that. 

GORELICK:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What did that tell you as a commissioner, that he liked the fact that, even though they didn‘t knock down the building, they came close, and he liked the target, didn‘t he?

GORELICK:  He definitely liked the target. 

MATTHEWS:  Did that tell you that this administration should have been attuned to the possibility of the killers returning to the site of the crime?

GORELICK:  Well, we knew that that was a habit of his, to keep going back until he got where he wanted to go. 

MATTHEWS:  Did the administration know that?

GORELICK:  I think so. 

MATTHEWS:  So they knew that he‘d done it before.  They knew he‘d like to do it again. 

Then they heard there was a danger to the courthouse where the American—African embassies were being tried.  That‘s two blocks from the World Trade Center.  They knew that that was another target of opportunity. 

GORELICK:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  But then they also knew that there was suspicious activity, according to the FBI, that was consistent with a hijacking in the United States. 

GORELICK:  Roughly.  Paraphrased it. 

MATTHEWS:  Put it all together, was it reasonable that somebody should have put all that together before 9/11 itself?

GORELICK:  I think if you look at that PDB and you look at the other dozens of PDB‘s and other pieces of intelligence that flow to the upper levels of our government, that the government should have been at complete battle stations.  Now, the Bush administration says that it was at complete full battle stations. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you this.  The president is lying down.  He‘s relaxing.  He‘s in his Texas ranch.  He‘s got his boots off.  I‘m not knocking the guy.  You know, we all go on vacation.  We do a lot of reading on vacation.  We‘re sort of in that casual mode and we‘re reading it all. 

Condi is running through this stuff we just ran through.  No action taken.  Doesn‘t that bother you as a commissioner, that that information, these particles of truth that led to a picture that might have, you know, like if we‘re watching, you know, “Wheel of Fortune,” that might add up into a statement: they‘re coming next month.  “Bin Laden Determined to Attack the United States.”

Shouldn‘t there have been action taken based upon these dots?

GORELICK:  I am not, and I‘m not going to right here and now tell me what my conclusions are as a commissioner.  We have evidence left to get.  We have deliberations yet to have. 

But I can tell you, and you can tell from the hearing itself, we all view the pattern, not just this PDB but the pattern of intelligence coming in as one that should have triggered the highest state of readiness. 

MATTHEWS:  Where was the bottleneck so far, in your preliminary assessment?  I mean, obviously, I‘m pushing you here. 

GORELICK:  Yes, well...

MATTHEWS:  George Tenet, when it happened 9/11, instinctively said, “I hope it‘s not that guy out there in Minnesota who was getting flight lessons.” 

The president of the United States instinctively said nothing: “That‘s one bad pilot.” 

How come one guy was on target and the other guy was off base?

GORELICK:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  If he as briefed properly?

GORELICK:  Well, A, I‘m not sure what the president knew when he said that.  So I‘m going to withhold judgment on that. 

MATTHEWS:  Tenet knew something. 

GORELICK:  Tenet knew. 

MATTHEWS:  That morning at breakfast with David Born (ph), the day of the attack, sensed this would be al Qaeda hitting. 

GORELICK:  Look, George Tenet was running around town pounding on tables saying, “We have an urgent problem here.”  So that‘s not a surprise. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he pound on the Oval Office table?

GORELICK:  I believe so. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘ll get back and talk about that table and the guy sitting behind it.

We‘re coming back with 9/11 commissioner Jamie Gorelick, former deputy attorney general.  May well be attorney general again.  Reaction to Condoleezza Rice‘s testimony with Senator Bob Graham and Senator Richard Shelby.  They‘re also joining us.

Plus, some top journalists will look at what she said today.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, reaction to Condoleezza Rice‘s testimony before the 9/11 commission from Senator Bob Graham of Florida and Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama.  And more with 9/11 commissioner Jamie Gorelick.  HARDBALL, back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE:  As I said to you in the private session, I probably could have said, “I could have not imagined,” because within two days people started to come to me and say, “Oh, but there were these reports in 1998 and 1999.  The intelligence community did look at information about this.”

To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Chairman, the—this kind of analysis about the use of airplanes as weapons actually was never briefed to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We always like to say—we‘re back with Jamie Gorelick, one of the commissioners who was on the panel today.  We always like to say connect the dots.  This is a familiar notion.  You connect the dots and it adds up to being a picture.

GORELICK:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But oftentimes, it takes two steps to connect the dots.  Connect the dots themselves, which is sort of an on the ground thing you do with the pencil.  But you have to have a concept in mind before you start.  It reminds you of something: “Oh, I see what that‘s saying.” 

GORELICK:  Yes.  You have to have it in your head.

MATTHEWS:  You know, like looking at the stars and seeing an image.

Do you think it‘s fair when she said no one could have imagined people using plane as missiles?

GORELICK:  Well, there‘s a record we have within the government of information that should have warned us about that.  I mean, going back to the 1996 Olympics. 

MATTHEWS:  Which she testified—She testified to the effect today that she did hear, subsequent to that statement, that there were cases of people who had done some reporting back in the ‘90s about it. 

But the question is, do you think that it‘s fair for her to say that she didn‘t think of that?

GORELICK:  Well, I actually—The question I would have asked... 

MATTHEWS:  Is she doing her job?

GORELICK:  The question I would have asked is, all right.  On 9/11, an aircraft is used as a missile.  In May of ‘02, you say...

MATTHEWS:  No one could have imagined. 

GORELICK:  You say, “Mo one could have imagined.”  And you‘re now correcting it to say “I couldn‘t have imagined” or “I didn‘t know.” 

If you‘re really trying to fix what‘s broken, you turn immediately to your staff and you say, “How come I didn‘t know this?”

MATTHEWS:  Right.  And Richard Clarke...

GORELICK:  “What did our information show us?”

MATTHEWS:  ... should have said immediately—should have immediately said, “We were doing that in terms of the Olympic preparations down in Atlanta back in ‘96.  This is something we worried about.” 

“Why didn‘t you tell me your worries?” is what she...

GORELICK:  No, it‘s not only why didn‘t he tell her but really why the intelligence that she got...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘re going to get this report in July?  Will this help our voting in November?  We‘ll have it before the election?

GORELICK:  This will raise some very fundamental issues. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  When we get done, the commission report before the election?

GORELICK:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Great.  That‘s the big question. 

Jamie Gorelick, a fine commissioner.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In today‘s testimony, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice revealed the name of a classified document entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.”  Commission members demanded that the report be declassified. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIMOTHY ROEMER, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  Would you say, Dr. Rice, that we should make that PDB a public document so we can have this conversation?

RICE: Threat reporting—Threat reporting is, we believe that something is going to happen here at this time under these circumstances.  This was not threat reporting. 

ROEMER:  Well, actionable intelligence, Dr. Rice, is when you have the place, time and date.  The threat reporting saying the United States is going to be attacked should trigger the principals getting together to say we‘re going to do something about it. 

RICE:  Mr. Roemer—Mr. Roemer, let‘s be very clear.  The PDB does not say the United States is going to be attacked.  It says bin Laden would like to attack the United States.  I don‘t think you frankly had to have that report to know that bin Laden would like to attack the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Senator Graham, is that a distinction without a difference? 

Whether he would like to or he‘s going to?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA:  I think it is.  I think the question today was, what did the administration know before 9/11 and what did they do with it?

The irony is that the United States has, for many years, trained its commercial aviation pilots that if there‘s a hijacking attempt, give in.  Be passive.  Get the plane on the ground, and then you‘ll negotiate. 

If they had known that there was a real possibility that airplanes would be used as weapons themselves, maybe you would have been a different outcome on 9/11. 

MATTHEWS:  However, Senator Shelby, the—Condoleezza Rice admitted now in her correction of her testimony from last time, apparently off in background, she said that there were reports in the 1990‘s of the possibility of using airplanes as missiles. 

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY ®, ALABAMA:  That‘s right.  We‘ve dug all that up when we did our joint investigation.  I believe it started in 1995, as far back as that.  But I think Dr. Rice‘s testimony today was very strong, very candid. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what did you make of the—this development that we now know the president while on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, almost exactly a month before 9/11, was briefed on the following. 

The heading of the briefing was “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.”  It included such information as the fact that bin Laden apparently, quote, “liked the results of the ‘93 bombing of the attack on the World Trade Center,” that in fact there was a danger to the courthouse where the African embassy bombers were being tried in New York City, which is two blocks away from the World Trade Center.

And there was also information that the FBI had found patterns of suspicious behavior in the United States consistent with hijacking. 

All of that under the heading of “Inside the United States.”  Nothing

·         Up until this time, wasn‘t Mrs. Rice saying—Ms. Rice saying “We were focused outside the United States”?  Now we‘re getting information there was threats and warnings about inside threats. 

GRAHAM:  There certainly were.  And we also had some other information.  We knew there were people down in Arizona, large numbers of Arab nationals, who were getting flight training.  We knew that there was another Arab national in Minnesota who only wanted to learn how to fly a plane, not to take off or land.  And there was somebody not far from where I live in Florida who had only flown a small plane who now was operating a simulator for a 737. 

Now...

MATTHEWS:  Who should have been that “we”?  You use the term “we know all this” because by now here we are several years later and we‘ve accumulated all these—all this information. 

But was there ever a “we,” a president, an NSC director, a Condi Rice, a George Tenet, who should have known all that?

GRAHAM:  The answer is, the case that I‘ve just given, is the FBI.  It was their agent in Phoenix who wrote the memo, describing the training.  It was their agent in Minnesota who arrested Moussaoui.  It was their people in south Florida who found out about the simulator.  So it was at least within one organization. 

MATTHEWS:  How come George Tenet knew on the morning of 9/11, just to repeat it one more time, that there was there guy picked up trying to get flight training up in Minnesota.  And in fact, it came to his mind: “Hey, I hope it‘s not that guy that was trying to get the flight lessons.” 

So the CIA director was right on target in knowing what might be the danger.  The president, meanwhile, said, “That‘s one bad pilot,” like he had no idea it might be an al Qaeda operation. 

Can you explain that difference?

GRAHAM:  I cannot explain. 

MATTHEWS:  A guy is briefed every day and doesn‘t get—pick up on it?

SHELBY:  I think once it‘s all said and done, you‘re going to be looking at the CIA and the FBI as major players here that didn‘t share information between them, didn‘t share information that should have been shared, even with Condoleezza Rice or the president of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t it manifest now that the CIA did benefit from the intelligence of the FBI?  Because the CIA director, Tenet, did know about Moussaoui being held in custody in Minneapolis?

SHELBY:  Well, I would—I think those would be relevant questions to ask the director of the CIA as the commission brings him forth. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s—both of you senators, I want to you respond to something.  Human interest.  This is Kristen Breitweiser.  You all know her.  She‘s been very effective in getting out the message about what her concerns are. 

At noontime today, I asked her to list her concerns and questions she‘s got about the handling of this matter, 9/11, beforehand. 

Here she is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BREITWEISER:  Whether or not 9/11 could have been prevented, I think, needs to be looked at by answering the following questions.  This is the information the intel community had. 

Meetings in Malaysia that the hijackers attended.  The CIA did surveillance in that meeting.  Two of those hijackers entered this country and had an FBI informant as their roommate in San Diego.  They had their name in the phone book. 

Another hijacker, they had the name Marwin (ph), and they had a phone number.  That was Mohamed Atta, the ringleader‘s roommate in Hamburg, Germany. 

We had money wire transfers coming from known al Qaeda operatives over in Europe, coming into this country in increments in excess of $10,000. 

We had them training in flight school, flight schools that you needed State Department clearance to attend. 

We had them—we know that the FBI had a file on Mohamed Atta.  They started that file in 1999. 

You have all of these facts together.  You have the chatter from the NSA.  You have Moussaoui in the flight school.  You have the Phoenix memo.  You have open testimony in New York City with FBI agents talking about Project Bojinka, a plot by al Qaeda to blow up planes over the Pacific, in the alternative, fly a plane into CIA headquarters. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s quite a bill of particulars, Senator Shelby. 

SHELBY:  I think she‘s laid it out quite well.  Senator Graham and I have been over this ground before.  And you can see that the FBI has failed the American people on many occasions, failed to share information even among themselves.  Failed to acknowledge even the Phoenix memo.  Failed to be on top of things dealing with the Moussaoui case coming out of Minnesota and many others. 

And I think it‘s not the president—President Bush, President Clinton—it‘s the people who served them. 

GRAHAM:  Where I would hold both President Clinton and President Bush responsible is we‘ve known about these problems in the intelligence agency for a long time.  We‘ve had a shelf full of reports, one which of happened to be chaired by Paul Bremer, the man who‘s now representing us in Iraq. 

The problem has been known.  The range of solutions have been suggested.  No action has been taken.  The president hasn‘t invested any of his political capital in trying to deal with these structural problems.  And the Congress, frankly, has not, at least as yet, been energized enough to...

MATTHEWS:  Do you hold Condi Rice responsible for never once speaking in public about al Qaeda?  There‘s no record.  You could Google her to death or Nexus Lexus her to death, and you put “Condi Rice” here and “al Qaeda” here, it will never show up.  She never mentioned it. 

Does that bother you?  Ever?

GRAHAM:  Yes.  Because there was enough information to indicate that the world had changed.  I think one of the realities is that Dr. Rice, the vice president, the secretary of defense were Cold War warriors, and they thought of the world as being one that was nation versus nation. 

The idea that a small group living in the mountains of Afghanistan could seriously threaten the United States of America was outside their beliefs. 

MATTHEWS:  Does it bother you that Condi Rice said she can‘t remember ever mentioning al Qaeda cells in the United States to the president, ever?

SHELBY:  Well, I‘m not privy to her information. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what she said today.

Shelby:  I know that.  But maybe if she didn‘t mention it to him, it was maybe not fed to her by the CIA or FBI or somebody. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Senator Shelby, Senator Bob Graham of Florida. 

Up next, we‘ll hear more from four women who were widowed in 9/11 and their reaction to Condoleezza Rice‘s testimony today. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, more reaction to Condoleezza Rice‘s testimony today from four women who lost their husbands in the attacks of September 11.  Plus, journalists Michael Isikoff, Gail Sheehy, and Hendrik Hertzberg on Rice‘s testimony. 

But, first, the latest headlines right now. 

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Earlier today, I spoke with four widows who lost their husbands in the attacks of September 11.  They were in the hearing room today as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testified before the 9/11 Commission.  I asked them what their reaction was to this exchange when 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste asked Rice to state the title about that CIA briefing paper given to the president a month before the attacks at his Crawford ranch. 

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, 9/11 COMMISSION:  Isn‘t it a fact, Dr.  Rice, that the August 6th PDB warned against possible attacks in this country?  And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB? 

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  I believe the title was, Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States. 

Now, the...

BEN-VENISTE:  Thank you. 

RICE:  No, Mr. Ben-Veniste...

BEN-VENISTE:  I will get into the...

RICE:  I would like to finish my point here. 

BEN-VENISTE:  I didn‘t know there was a point. 

RICE:  Given that—you asked me whether or not it warned of attacks. 

BEN-VENISTE:  I asked you what the title was. 

RICE:  You said, did it not warn of attacks.  It did not warn of attacks inside the United States.  It was historical information based on old reporting.  There was no new threat information.  And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t say it warned.  He asked what the title was, a direct question.  She didn‘t want to give a direct answer.  How did that hit you?

LORIE VAN AUKEN, 9/11 WIDOW:  No. 1 Yes, well, we‘ve known for a long time that that was the title of that briefing.  And they‘ve been trying to keep that a secret from the public.  They tried to keep it a secret in the Joint Intelligence Committee report.  That pretty much says it all. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... because I haven‘t had it.  Lisa Myers had it.  I hadn‘t had it.  How did you know the title of this document?  I do think it sounds like a preview at the movie theater.  Guess what, next week. 

(CROSSTALK)

PATTY CASAZZA, 9/11 WIDOW:  And you combine that with George Tenet saying it is going to be a spectacular attack—or Richard Clarke. 

MATTHEWS:  And you‘ve suspicious behavior in the United States.  You‘ve got al Qaeda people in the United States.  You‘ve got a guy trying to learn how to fly a plane once it‘s in the air, but he doesn‘t want to learn how to take off or land. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He wants to learn how to hijack. 

MINDY KLEINBERG, 9/11 WIDOW:  And he‘s in custody.  You know what?  I think that, for the past two years, America has been operating under the misnomer that we couldn‘t have known, this was a surprise, nobody knew anything.  And what people are learning today is that that is not true. 

MATTHEWS:  Were the dots this hard to connect after today as they seemed before today? 

KRISTEN BREITWEISER, 9/11 WIDOW:  No, it‘s not.  No, it‘s not.

MATTHEWS:  Do the dots seem closer after today? 

BREITWEISER:  You know what?  It is not harder to do in retrospect. 

It is not Monday-morning quarterbacking. 

You had the director of the CIA on the morning of 9/11, his first response, I hope this doesn‘t have to do with that guy taking flight lessons.  He was referring to Moussaoui.  So if the FBI and the CIA weren‘t talking, what did the president say?  He said, that‘s some bad pilot.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s one bad pilot. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So what explains that grand canyon of difference between... 

BREITWEISER:  Condoleezza Rice.  It is her job to not have that grand canyon.  It is her job to fuse that information in one fusion center.  And you know what?  She didn‘t do it, which I don‘t know what the answer is. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The president of the United States is briefed every morning by Tenet.  Tenet has a mind-set which is triggered:  I know what I‘m looking for and when it comes, I‘ll know what it looks like.  Nobody had a private plane that managed to meander across the Hudson River, which is pretty wide, by accident.  And he knew that at breakfast at the Saint Regis Hotel that morning on 16th Street. 

And the president thought nothing—it connected nothing to him. 

Does that mean he was poorly briefed? 

BREITWEISER:  Listen, obviously...

MATTHEWS:  Or did Condi fail to do it? 

(CROSSTALK)

KLEINBERG:  She failed to do it, right.

MATTHEWS:  Why?

KLEINBERG:  Well, either he was poorly briefed or he was a good actor. 

I mean, he remained in a classroom, OK?

When that plane hit that first building, if they were so briefed and they had had an August 6 PDB, and we had just been through a summer of threat, then shouldn‘t the dots have connected right there at that moment for him, for Donald Rumsfeld, for General Myers?  All of them, in their testimonies or in their discussions or in their books have talked about how it wasn‘t until after the second plane went into the second building or it wasn‘t until after the Pentagon was hit that they realized what was going on. 

Where is there a breakdown in communication that you had an

intelligence community with their hair on fire and yet a hijacked plane

hits a building and

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  I also asked the four widows to respond to this exchange between Ben-Veniste and Rice about whether she informed President Bush about the presence of al Qaeda cells here in the U.S.   Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN-VENISTE:  You acknowledged to us in your interview of February 7, 2004, that Richard Clarke told you that Al Qaeda cells were in the United States. 

Did you tell the president, at any time prior to August 6, of the existence of Al Qaeda cells in the United States? 

RICE:  First, let me just make certain...

BEN-VENISTE:  If you could just answer that question, because I only have a very limited...

RICE:  I understand, Commissioner, but it‘s important...

BEN-VENISTE:  Did you tell the president...

RICE:  ... that I also address...

(APPLAUSE)

It‘s also important that, Commissioner, that I address the other issues that you have raised.  So I will do it quickly, but if you‘ll just give me a moment. 

BEN-VENISTE:  Well, my only question to you is whether you...

RICE:  I understand, Commissioner, but I will...

BEN-VENISTE:  ... told the president. 

RICE:  If you‘ll just give me a moment, I will address fully the questions that you‘ve asked.  I really don‘t remember, Commissioner, whether I discussed this with the president.

BEN-VENISTE:  Thank you.   

RICE:  I remember very well that the president was aware that there were issues inside the United States.  He talked to people about this.  But I don‘t remember the Al Qaeda cells as being something that we were told we needed to do something about.   

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You said something during that. 

CASAZZA:  The only thing that you have left at the end of the day is your integrity. 

And, clearly, she had all the warnings she needed.  She should have told the president, even if she was unsure.  It is the president‘s responsibility to really protect and serve this nation.  He‘s the commander in chief.  And on the morning of 9/11, even when the nation was fully under attack, our nation didn‘t have a military response until after the Pentagon got hit.  That was a full hour and a half after the first plane was known hijacked.  How is that possible?

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about—let me go back to one thing that we learned just today from Condoleezza Rice, a direct question to her from Richard Ben-Veniste, a pointed question.  Did you ever brief the president about the al Qaeda? 

And she after a lot of meandering there, and I guess she had to do it, got to point of saying, well, we didn‘t think there was anything that needed to be done there.  Now, the question—and the tough question for you, Pat, and I know you‘re a civilian here and a victim—but the fact is, what do you think the president of the United States should do if he were told by Condi Rice? 

Apparently, she doesn‘t remember telling him.  Is the president of the United States personally supposed to go out and say, let‘s go catch those al Qaeda guys in the United States?  What‘s he supposed to do?

CASAZZA:  They should have been following the al Qaeda cells anyway. 

We had prior attacks.  It is their responsibility to thwart all attacks.  We were spending, I think, $30 billion a year on national defense prior to 9/11.  Where did that money go? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, according to what we heard this morning, the FBI was pursuing those al Qaeda guys. 

CASAZZA:  They weren‘t bringing the principals together.  They were not shaking the information out of the trees.  We know Moussaoui was under arrest August 16. 

MATTHEWS:  The FBI knew that at the

(CROSSTALK)  

MATTHEWS:  And we also knew that Tenet knew that. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, “Newsweek”‘s Michael Isikoff, author Gail Sheehy, and “The New Yorker” magazine‘s Hendrik Hertzberg.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

ANNOUNCER:  Follow all the action in the battle for the White House.  Just sign up for the best political briefing around.  Log on to our newly redesigned Web site at HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, “Newsweek”‘s Michael Isikoff, author Gail Sheehy, and “The New Yorker”‘s Hendrik Hertzberg with their reaction to Condoleezza Rice‘s testimony on Capitol Hill today—when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Michael Isikoff is an investigative correspondent for “Newsweek.”  Journalist Gail Sheehy is the author of “Middletown, America” about the victims from one New Jersey town.  And Hendrik Hertzberg writes for “The New Yorker.”

Let start with Hendrik Hertzberg.

Rik, I have got to ask you, I don‘t know if it jumped off the screen at you, but this read like a “New York Times” preview of coming movie attractions.  “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the U.S.” a month before it happened.  The president is getting a briefing in Crawford, Texas, basically with a big broadside, here‘s what‘s coming.  How did you read that? 

HENDRIK HERTZBERG, “THE NEW YORKER”:  That‘s how it sounded to me, too.  And it is understandable why it has taken until now for that to come out. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think kept—Michael Isikoff, you told me, before we went on the air tonight, that you had seen this title before, this labeling on this amazing briefing.  Is it an accurate labeling?  Is it truly about an inside attack against the United States given to the president a month before it happened? 

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, we still haven‘t seen the document. 

MATTHEWS:  But the labeling of it is pretty clear. 

ISIKOFF:  I that‘s one of the outgrowths of this hearing, is they‘re going to be increased pressure...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

ISIKOFF:  ... on the White House to actually release it at this point.  It is only a little more than one page.  People have been talking about it, speculating about it for more than two years.  Its existence first became known in the spring of 2002.  Condoleezza Rice briefed on it then and then really downplayed it, as she did today. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, she tried.

ISIKOFF:  But certainly, there were clearly aspects of it that were much more newsworthy than the administration and the White House has ever let on before.

MATTHEWS:  Well, catch these aspects.

Gail, you respond to this.  It said that bin Laden liked the results of the ‘93 attempt at the World Trade Center.  Well, he might want to do it again.  No. 2, that there was a danger to the courthouse where the African Embassy bombers were being tried, which is two blocks from the World Trade Center, that the FBI had indicated there were pattern of suspicious activity in the United States, consistent with preparations for hijacking, all that information underneath the heading of “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.”

What more information—it sounds like it was a leak from the al Qaeda ring, much less like a CIA briefing. 

GAIL SHEEHY, AUTHOR/JOURNALIST:  You know what was wonderful about that, Chris, if I can jump in? 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re in. 

(LAUGHTER)

SHEEHY:  That the commissioners forced that to come out of Condi Rice‘s own mouth.  She was the one who finally declassified the title of that document, which they have done everything to protect for the last two years. 

And then she countermanded it over and over again, saying there was nothing that indicated there would be attacks inside the U.S. in contradiction to the exact title of the memo on which the president was briefed.  Then she couldn‘t remember whether she told the president whether there were sleeper cells inside the United States and she couldn‘t remember whether the DCI of the CIA had talked to the president from the time of this briefing on August 6 until September 11.  So I think she really—when you parse her testimony, it just isn‘t going to hold up. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to this point here about the point that you just made, Gail.  She said she couldn‘t remember after a lot of meandering today with Ben-Veniste.  She said, I couldn‘t remember if I ever told the president about al Qaeda cells operating inside the United States. 

SHEEHY:  How could you not remember? 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that the key here?

SHEEHY:  Yes. 

ISIKOFF:  That‘s one of the keys.

The other actually is whether she ever asked the FBI director, who actually was interim director at the time, Tom Pickard, to brief the president and how much contact there was then.  In fact, the biggest discrepancy I heard in the testimony today was Condi Rice saying that as a result of this briefing and other warnings, that the government took other steps, including that the FBI—all 56 field offices of the FBI were tasked with increasing surveillance of terrorist suspects and reaching out to informants to find out if there were any terrorist plots under way. 

That‘s in her prepared testimony, written testimony.  Commissioners said that they have interviewed heads of FBI field offices, Tom Pickard, the director of the FBI at the time, and looked at every record about—relating to this they can find and they can find no evidence that such a tasking ever took place.  Now, that is a pretty big gap in testimony. 

Either somebody misinformed Rice and told her this tasking was going to take place and it never did, or she tasked somebody to do it and they didn‘t do their job.  Something is wrong here.  And this is all going to lead up to next week‘s testimony—hearing, which I think is going to be even much bigger now as a result of this, when we‘re going to have Ashcroft, Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was the attorney general at the time, Louis Freeh, who had been the FBI director, and Tom Pickard, who was the interim FBI director at the time.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I guess there‘s two questions here most people want to get out of this commission.

One is, did we do our basic police work?  Were we aware a crime was going to be committed against us, a terrorist act, whatever you want to call it, and were we prepared to stop it, and/or did we have the right policy in place to recognize the priority that our executive branch should be giving to this whole question of terrorism coming in the country?

What strikes me, Rik, again and again and again is the difference between what the president knew—and he is supposed to be briefed every morning by the CIA director—and what the CIA director knew instinctively.  Instinctively, sitting at breakfast with David Boren the morning of the attack, the CIA director says, I hope this doesn‘t have anything to do with that guy who was trying to get flight lessons out there in Minnesota. 

The president, on the other hand, said, boy, that‘s one bad pilot. 

HERTZBERG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  One guy is completely out of it in terms of this particular kind of sensitivity.  The other guy is right on target.  Why didn‘t the president share in that smartness that the CIA director showed? 

HERTZBERG:  Well, he seems to have been a little out of the loop. 

SHEEHY:  Yes. 

HERTZBERG:  The big difference between Richard Clarke‘s testimony and Condi Rice‘s testimony, I think, is that Clarke gave us a narrative.  Condi Rice tried to footnote to it death. 

But, essentially, she ended up confirming the basics, the essentials of Clarke‘s story, which was simply that the Bush administration placed a lower priority on terrorism than the Clinton administration had done.  It‘s a great lesson in bureaucratic politics, this whole hearing, the difference in the way the millennium warnings were handled.

The Olympics warnings were handled, and then the high threat period of the summer before 9/11 is really instructive and it really shows you there is a difference between principles meetings and deputies meetings in term of putting the fear of God into the bureaucracy and shaking things out of the trees. 

ISIKOFF:  That was certainly one of the major thrusts of Clarke‘s testimony.

I thought one of the most interesting aspects of Rice‘s testimony was her comeback on that, which was very slyly woven in there, when she said, oh, by the way, Richard Clarke talked about how the principals meetings led us to the capture of Ahmed Ressam, the terrorist who was crossing the border just before the millennium. 

Rice said she checked with customs on this, that it had nothing to do with any principals meetings in Washington, that there was this alert customs inspector who just happened to notice he was acting strangely.  And, oh, by the way, customs never got any alert as a result of those principals meetings. 

So she clearly felt the sting of what Clarke had to say about that and was trying to refute that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And she also countered his assertion that he had called a meeting in July to regularize everybody, to familiarize everybody in the domestic agencies with the possibility of a domestic attack.  And she made a point that she caught called that meeting. 

It‘s a little bit of he said/she said.

We‘re going to come right back with that battle.  But the bigger battle, of course, the bigger question that I think came out of this whole hearing was, why was the president briefed under the heading of “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the U.S.” a month before it happened and nobody did anything?

Back with Michael Isikoff, Gail Sheehy, and Hendrik Hertzberg.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We‘re back with “Newsweek”‘s Michael Isikoff, journalist Gail Sheehy, and “The New Yorker”‘s Hendrik Hertzberg.

You know, everybody, when you get one of those satellite views of the and United States and they come right down into the target until it is finally right on top of the figure you‘re looking at, the location, and you get a much sharper view?  Several months ago, our view of what happened before 9/11 was Condi Rice‘s term of words, which were, no one could have imagined that something like this could have happened, where planes could have be used as missiles. 

And then, a couple of weeks ago, we got a much closer view thanks to Richard Clarke‘s book and his testimony.  And now I want to ask you all, what happened today?  We did get still closer?  Do the dots look much closer than they looked?  Did the need or the possibility of stopping this 9/11 seem more apparent now than it did several months ago, when Condi was the only voice? 

SHEEHY:  Oh, so much closer. 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Gail.

SHEEHY:  I‘m so glad that you had the four moms from New Jersey on at the top of the show.  I‘ve been following them for two years.  And they don‘t have 60 investigators and subpoena power like the commission, but they‘re always leagues ahead of the commission with their questions. 

And a lot of those answers were squeezed out of Condi Rice today, not in a narrative, but they will constantly be replayed.  And for her to continually say, nobody was looking at it, nobody was pulling together the INS and the Border Patrol people and the Air Force and the airlines, she—that was her job.  And the moms kept making that point.  It was her job and her job to warn the president and his job to rattle the cages and say, what is it coming?  What FBI field office information is coming in? 

They were dying to get information into the headquarters.  And they couldn‘t get it.  The real question going forward, Chris, I think is, why was the administration so determined to disconnect the dots?  And why are they still doing it? 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think the blame—that‘s what Kristen Breitweiser, probably the most well known of the widows has said when I asked her the question, why was there such a disconnect, a grand canyon between what the president knew and the CIA director knew on the day of, and why wasn‘t the president as attuned as the CIA director?  She said, the answer is Condi Rice. 

Now, why is Condi Rice—is she supposed to be the president‘s mentor, coach? 

SHEEHY:  But she is.  She‘s the president‘s mentor and coach.  She taught him foreign policy.  He didn‘t know anything about it when he was in Texas.

And so she‘s there to protect him.  And the one person whose name only came up once was the vice president.  He, she said today, was tasked in May of 2001 to bring the agencies together and shake the trees and try to figure out, what is all this terrorism chatter about?  Well, we never heard what did he.  And did he pull anything together? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they‘re so smart.  Gail, you are so smart.  At least I agree with you, so that makes you smart by my terminology. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I asked the widows earlier today, right after the hearings, I said,who would you most like to have under sodium pentothal for a couple hours sitting in a chair in front of you?  A couple of them said Cheney right away. 

SHEEHY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  They didn‘t say the president.  They said Cheney. 

SHEEHY:  He‘s the hidden man.

MATTHEWS:  I thought that was very sophisticated. 

SHEEHY:  Very smart, yes.

MATTHEWS:  What you think, Mike, this question of, do we have a closer view of these dots now?  Do they seem closer together?  Should it look more like somebody should have done something now? 

ISIKOFF:  Well, we know more dots.  There are more dots that keep emerging every time the commission holds a hearing.  And I think we‘re going to see a lot more next week when we get the commission staff statement on FBI and domestic intelligence. 

MATTHEWS:  Are we moving more away from an act of God, a phenomenon that couldn‘t have been predicted, toward, some people screwed up?  Or are we still at that notion of—most Americans, by the way, still hold the notion, this could not have been prevented.  It was too new. 

ISIKOFF:  I think, right now, I think all indications are that the

commission is going to have a very carefully nuanced statement that is

going to say that 9/11 was preventable, based on

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Will we get this before the election?

ISIKOFF:  We‘re going to get on it on July 26. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Rik Hertzberg, your view.  Are we getting closer to the notion of culpability here? 

HERTZBERG:  In two ways.

We‘re getting closer to it in terms of the little specifics, the dots that get closer and closer to be connected, and then, in this overall sense, what did this administration, what did the Bush administration think was important and what didn‘t they think was important. 

And it‘s, essentially, I think they thought real men are interested in missile defense, China, Iraq, and that terrorism is a sideshow. 

SHEEHY:  Especially...

MATTHEWS:  And you think it may be—in other words, it‘s old Cold War ideology that held the Manichean view of the universe kept them from adjusting to the fact that there are new forces out there. 

HERTZBERG:  They had their unfinished business from eight years earlier and they were determined to get on with it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they got on to Iraq.

SHEEHY:  They were still fighting the old war. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s a perception that many have, which is Iraq and the SDI were more interesting to them than catching al Qaeda and bringing that to justice.

Thank you very much, Michael Isikoff from “Newsweek,” great investigative reporter.  Gail Sheehy, great stuff.  Those wives are unbelievable.  And thank you, Rik Hertzberg, my close friend.

For the transcript of my interview with the widows of 9/11, go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.  And while you‘re there, sign up for our free daily e-mail briefing.

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.

END   

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