updated 5/25/2004 9:53:53 AM ET 2004-05-25T13:53:53

Guests: Dana Priest, Robin Wright, Dan Senor

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight on HARDBALL, “Washington Post” special report.  Lifting the veil on America‘s invisible war being waged in Iraq, from Abu Ghraib and beyond. 

From NBC News, Andrea Mitchell and Jim Miklaszewski, and Dana Priest and Robin Wright from the “Washington Post.” 

Plus, MSNBC‘s live coverage of President Bush‘s prime time speech at 8 p.m. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And welcome to a special edition of HARDBALL. 

The war in Iraq is a difficult, often messy story.  And tonight we put together some of the top journalists covering it on the military intelligence and diplomatic fronts. 

Joining me, NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell.  And from the “Washington Post,” the newspaper that led in the war, intelligence and the prison abuse coverage, Dana Priest.  And Robin Wright, who is at the “Post” newsroom right now. 

But first earlier today, I interviewed Dan Senor, who‘s the senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority.  He‘s in Baghdad. 

Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Anthony Zinni was on “60 Minutes” last night, the general, and he took a shot at the entire Defense Department.  And he said that we needed a lot more troops over there to get security goal we‘re trying to face right now. 

What do you make of the claim that we need about twice as many American troops as the 130 we have over there -- 130,000 we have now to secure the place?

DAN SENIOR, SENIOR ADVISOR, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY:  Look, Chris.  I didn‘t see the “60 Minutes” show.  We don‘t get “60 Minutes” here yet in Baghdad.  Someday but not now. 

As for the number of troops, I obviously defer to my colleagues in the military, the military planners.  But from my understanding, the president, the secretary of defense have made it clear that the U.S. military will get the troop numbers that they need. 

And when General Abizaid and others make their assessments and make their requests, based on their sense of the needs on the ground, their needs will be met. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me serve as armed forces radio and give you now a little snippet from last night‘s statement by General Zinni, so you‘ll know what I‘m talking about, Dan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, U.S. ARMY:  I blame the Pentagon.  I blame the civilian leadership in the Pentagon directly.  Because if they were given the responsibility, and if this was their war, and by everything I understand, they promoted it and pushed it.  Certain elements in there, certainly, even to the point of creating their own intelligence to match their needs. 

Then they should bear the responsibility.  Somebody has screwed up.  And at this level, and at this stage, it should be evident to everybody that they‘ve screwed up.  And whose heads are rolling on this?  That‘s what bothers me most. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I think that captured tenor of what he said.  But let‘s talk about the future: today, tomorrow, the next day. 

You know, we had the president of the governing council that was killed the other day, coming into the Green Zone.  Four people were killed this morning coming into the Green Zone. 

Give us a sense of what it‘s like to work in the Green Zone, to live there, surrounded by a country that‘s not yet secure, Dan. 

SENOR:  Well, in the Green Zone, I think there‘s a common misperception, Chris.  The Green Zone is just not the coalition, just not Americans.  They‘re citizens from a number of international—a number of countries from around the world who work there. 

There are also a number of Iraqis who live and work in the Green Zone.  You travel around the Green Zone, there‘s the palace headquarters, where Ambassador Bremer and some thousand plus workers—civilians work. 

But you travel around the streets of the Green Zone, you‘ll see Iraqis

riding their bikes, driving their cars, Iraqi homes, bazaars, shooks (ph) -

·         shops that Iraqi occupy.  And perform basic commerce that you would see in any downtown situation in the United States.  So it‘s a very vibrant area. 

It does have a security perimeter, however, where we try to have these checkpoints, because right now the Green Zone is the headquarters of the coalition and the headquarters of the Iraqi government.  And so we have these checkpoints where we try maximize the security of those individuals coming in and out. 

Obviously not perfect.  When you have people who are willing to tie belts to their bodies and blow themselves up or use IED‘s and use car bombs, you‘re never going to have 100 percent security.  We do the best that we can in the Green Zone and continue to work to stabilize the rest of the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there something you see coming in terms of enhanced security based upon, perhaps, what the president says tonight in Carlisle, about ways that you think we might be better off, say, a month or two from now than we are right now in terms of security?

SENOR:  You know, Chris, I think the most important thing you‘re going to see in the next month or two is the Iraqis taking control of their government. 

Iraqis will soon realize that their future belong to the Iraqi people.  They will realize that any time a suicide bomber blows up Iraqis, those being held accountable for the security of the Iraqis, are—is the Iraqi government.  Not Jerry Bremer, not General Sanchez, but the Iraqi people will be held accountable by the Iraqi people. 

When people have complaints or they have praise for the way life is going in Iraq, that will be directed at Iraqi leadership. 

That will make it that much harder for the terrorists to operate in this country.  Because it‘s much tougher to justify terrorism against an occupation.  Sorry.  It is much more difficult to justify terrorism against a freely elected Iraqi government, a sovereign Iraqi government, than it is against an occupation. 

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s going to look out for U.S. service people once we have a governing authority, or rather a new interim government in place?  They‘ll—As you pointed out, their goal will be to look out for their own people.  Who‘s going to look out for us?  We look out for ourselves?

SENOR:  Well, I think, you know, the military talks about playing a reinforcement role for security and letting the Iraqi security forces play the front line role. 

They will play the enforcer.  We will play the reinforcer. 

But I also think it‘s important to keep in mind that we‘re going to have a real partnership.  A real bilateral partnership between the American government and the Iraqi government, comparable to partnerships that we have all over the world. 

All over the world, we have relationships where we work hand in hand with the host government, where our security forces work hand in hand with the host security forces. 

You talk to Iraqis here on the street, even those that are incredibly frustrated with the occupation, even those that want to take back control of the government, they say don‘t let your security forces leave. 

They still want American security forces presence, even if they don‘t like the optic of it.  Even if they don‘t like the look and feel of it, they recognize that a real partnership will do much to defend against the very significant terror threat that‘s in the country.  And they want to work with us. 

And therefore, I think we‘ll have a very collaborative relationship that will be beneficial to American security forces and—and the Iraqi people. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Dan, as you know, we want to bring HARDBALL over there as soon as I can.  But I want to ask you something that bothers me. 

It‘s not that we have a sense back here, watching your work over there and the whole coalition forces over there, that everybody hates us.  It‘s a sense that some people hate us and some people are willing to, as you say, strap bombs to themselves to kill us. 

It‘s that nobody shoots those people.  It seems like no one ever comes to the aid of Americans and shoots the bad guys as we see them.  When is that going to change?  When are Iraqis going to shoot Iraqis who are trying to kill us?

SENOR:  Well, I will say this.  We‘ve got security forces numbering, on the Iraqi side, approximately 200,000.  If you count the new Iraqi army, the Iraqi police force, the Iraqi civil defense corps.  I can go on. 

They—Those who have underperformed or not performed at all have gotten all the press attention in the last couple of months.  Those who haven‘t gotten the attention are those who have performed heroically.  Iraqis, real patriots, very serious people, very committed people. 

The Iraqi police force has had 350 lost lives in the line of duty. 

Very patriotic Iraqis. 

And the more Iraqi security forces are patriotic, the more they‘re on the front lines, the better it is for American security forces.  And that‘s how our interests will be protected.  When Iraqis are taking their own security and their own country and their future democracy very seriously and they‘re willing to put their own lives on the line to protect against the terror threat that is right here in this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the role of the—the residual role of U.S. forces in that country. 

We have 130,000 troops over there.  According to the report I got today, the U.N. resolution, at least the draft resolution we would like to see approved by the Security Council would allow to us keep our troops there another year. 

Is that any sign as to how long we will have to stay ultimately?

SENOR:  You know, it‘s too early to tell, Chris.  I know there‘s going to be drafts and discussions coming out of New York on the U.N. Security Council resolution. 

I think the way we have to approach it is this.  We‘ve got to evaluate the terror threat on the ground on a day-by-day basis, recognizing that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. 

And once we get to a point, whether it‘s by the military commanders on the ground and their consultations with the president.  When we get to a point on the ground, where we determine that we can scale back, we will. 

The president has been clear.  We will stay here until the job is done, which is defeating the terrorist threat here, defending against it and handing—building a democracy here that can defend itself.  And leaving a country behind that‘s at peace with its own citizens and at peace with its neighbors, at peace with us, at peace with the world. 

Once we get to that point, we won‘t stay a day longer. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask what you it‘s going to look like and feel like and sound like back here after June 30. 

Once an interim government takes office, and there‘s a head of that interim government, and he or she is sending the shots and sending the word out to the world what the government stands for and what it‘s going to try to do, how will our role be different than it is right now?

SENOR:  Well, you will no longer have Ambassador Bremer being held accountable by the Iraqi people.  You will no longer having—have the Iraqi people directing their frustrations at the American occupier. 

You will have them looking at an Iraqi government.  And that, in the context of a free society, is very important. 

Unlike most parts of this world, you will have a free press.  There‘s some, well over 100 newspapers, Chris, that have sprouted up here since liberation.  That are very tough questioners.  They write very tough editorials.  They hold me and my colleague, General Kimmitt, very accountable every single day.  Well, that will now be directed at an Iraqi government. 

So an Iraqi face to the process, an Iraqi initiated policies, and an Iraqi public that is free to speak their mind, free to change a government through their vote, free to hold their government accountable through the press.  I think will do more to lift the socioeconomic status and the pride of Iraqis than just about anything else. 

And that will be very critical to our overall war against the terrorists.  Because I believe that that against what the terrorists‘ vision is for the future of Iraq, will win any day. 

MATTHEWS:  Will that take the target off our back?

SENOR:  To some degree.  But we have to recognize, as Zarqawi has articulated quite clearly, in his al Qaeda directed memorandum, or his proposal, his al Qaeda battle plan for Iraq, that he is going to ramp up violence, whether it be against the coalition or against Iraqis, between now and June 30. 

He may try to do it after June 30 to test the resolve of the new government and to test the resolve of American forces as they operate here after June 30. 

So we should be realistic that there will be violence.  They want to do everything they can to prevent an Iraqi self-governing operation.  The government from taking over here, or from succeeding. 

And the only tool is violence.  The rhetoric doesn‘t work.  They don‘t want to participate in the election process.  That‘s for sure.  So they try to achieve through a suicide belt what they know they could never achieve at a ballot box. 

And so they will really try to test our resolve and the Iraqi people‘s resolve after June 30.  We have to—we have to be ready for it. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go right now to Dana Priest.  Dana, this question of Zinni, who‘s he blaming in that interview we had right at the beginning that we showed him? 

DANA PRIEST, “WASHINGTON POST”:  He is blaming everybody.  And the reason it‘s so powerful is that Zinni supported President Bush.  That made lots of news. 

As a commander with four stars in charge of the Middle East, he had his own war plan that calls—called for lots more troops and a much more robust post-war plan. 

And finally, he traveled in the Middle East.  Ninety percent of his time was not spent on military things.  It was spent on economic and social issues, and he would say that there‘s no military solution to terrorism. 

MATTHEWS:  Uniform against the civilians.  Uniform against suits.  Here‘s General Zinni saying they didn‘t give us enough troops to win the way.  They gave us bad WMD, right?  They gave us bad intel across the board.

Now they‘ve got this clown, Chalabi.  I shouldn‘t say clown yet.  But a guy who looks like a clown right now, Chalabi, giving us all the bad intel and not having any popularity on the ground and then ending up being a crook. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, CO-HOST:  When you think Tony Zinni, you‘ve got to think General Shinseki, who was one of his close allies, more forces needed, but also think Richard Powell and Richard Armitage.  That‘s the alliance.

Zinni was their man in the Middle East.  He was their Middle East negotiator. 

But he certainly feels that the rug was pulled out from under him.  The policy was changed by the White House.  And that he never had the flexibility to put real pressure on Ariel Sharon. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I love it when somebody comes out of a bureaucracy and they can tell us what‘s going on.  The Vilachis (ph) of the world.  The Richard Clarkes, in this case, Anthony Zinni. 

What‘s his—What‘s the skinny on Zinni?

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think General Zinni understood what the Bush administration and apparently the Bush Pentagon did not. 

And that you can‘t use military force all by itself.  You need an equal portion of diplomacy, which was clearly missing in the U.S. decision to go into war against Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me right now to go Robin Wright. 

How can the president stay loyal to Richard Cheney, his vice president, and keep him aboard, if all these other guys are questionable?  If all the guys from Rumsfeld down to Wolfowitz, to Feith, Cambone, of all the guys that so close to the vice president, including Ahmed Chalabi, are now suspect. 

How can he stay in favor, the vice president?

ROBIN WRIGHT, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, I don‘t cover domestic politics.  But I suspect that while there‘s a lot of—there‘s growing criticism of many in the administration who are close to him at the Pentagon and at the White House, that they haven‘t reached that threshold yet where there‘s likely, or there‘s going to be any change.  Anyone‘s going to be held accountable. 

That may well come down the road.  But I still don‘t see him abandoning Vice President Cheney.  I think it‘s more likely we‘ll see some fallout at the Pentagon with either the military brass or more likely, those who have been the policy advisors. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s find out who‘s going to lose their job.  More with our panel in a moment.  We‘ll talk about the broken promises that the civilians, the suits of the Defense Department, made in the case for war, from WMD to the Iraqis embracing us in the streets.  None of it happened. 

And for the first time, from the Article 32 hearings, the testimony that accuses General Ricardo Sanchez, the top man in Iraq, of knowing what went on inside Baghdad‘s Abu Ghraib prison. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, top journalists from NBC News and the “Washington Post” will be here with a special report on how the U.S.  military and the CIA are using some top secret tactics to win the war in Iraq, when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Dana, I want to ask you about this new tape recording that‘s emerged.  A tape recording, what apparently shows what about who knew what about these prison abuses?

PRIEST:  This is an attorney talking in an Article 31.  It‘s a preliminary hearing.  He‘s talking to a military prosecutor. 

And what he‘s saying is that he has a witness, Captain Reese, who is going to tell him on behalf of his defendant, that he believes that General Sanchez came to the prison and saw abuse. 

So it‘s really the first...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at that.  The “Washington Post” did report this weekend that Sergeant Chip Frederick‘s military lawyer testified that General Ricardo Sanchez, the top general in Iraq, was present at the prison during some interrogations and/or allegations of prisoner abuse. 

We have now obtained exclusively from the “Washington Post” the audio of that testimony.  Here‘s the exchange during a military hearing between the military prosecutor and Captain Robert Shuck, Frederick‘s lawyer, about General Sanchez and where he was at a certain time. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. JOHN MCCABE, U.S. ARMY:  Are you saying that Captain Reese is going to testify that General Sanchez was there and saw this going on?

CAPT. ROBERT SHUCK, SGT. CHIP FREDERICK‘S LAWYER:  That‘s what he told me.  I am an officer of the court, and I would not lie.  I got two children at home.  I‘m not going to risk my career.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  General Sanchez has denied the charges.  There‘s going to be more on the Abu Ghraib story in the “Washington Post.”

For more photos and documents, go to WashingtonPost.com.

Let me ask you about that.  So what‘s going on there, we have a little snippet of a political hearing, an Article 31 hearing, which is a preliminary hearing. 

And in that hearing, one of the—the lawyer for the defendants says, “Wait a minute.  I‘m going to produce evidence in court that my client‘s innocent.  He was only obeying orders.” 

And therefore, he‘s arguing that he‘s going to bring this guy Sanchez right into the room where this was being talked about so they can‘t claim they didn‘t know what the hell that was going on.  And this is the first time we‘ve got hard evidence that the very high ups know about this. 

PRIEST:  It‘s the first time they‘re accusing him of being there before he told Congress that he was there. 

In the same article, General Karpinski also says that General Sanchez visited the prison in October...

MATTHEWS:  Three times. 

PRIEST:  At least three times.  And she found it unusual.

Let me talk to you, Andrea.  This whole thing, it‘s a lot to cover tonight, but there‘s so much going on in this situation over there in Iraq. 

You know, there‘s a big fight.  I want you all this talk about this now, that‘s going on between civilian tops at the Defense Department and the people who are now talking, especially General Zinni. 

Since the beginning of this war, the civilians at the Pentagon have been filled with lots of promises and lots of predictions.  They said they were going to be WMD‘s.  This is people like Wolfowitz and Feith, the top people over there.  And Rumsfeld, of course. 

That Iraq was connected to al Qaeda.  No proof of that.  That Iraq would welcome us as liberators right through this occupation. 

That Turkey, by the way, would have allowed our troops on the ground to get into the northern front there.  That we didn‘t need anywhere near a couple hundred thousand troops.  That a few troops would be enough. 

That Iraqi oil would finance the whole reconstruction and that Chalabi would be a greatest trusted leader of the new Iraq. 

Andrea, they‘re always wrong.  They‘re the gang that can‘t shoot straight.  Why does this president stand behind Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith, the guy who the military is starting to shoot at? 

MITCHELL:  From his perspective, a lot that they‘ve projected went right.  Look at the march on Baghdad. 

I mean, he would say that the war went well, that the war in Afghanistan went well.  And he believes and trusts these advisors.  There‘s a lot of loyalty both ways. 

This has been one of the most disciplined administrations, with the exception of the sort of marginalization of Colin Powell and the State Department folks when it came to diplomacy versus going to war. 

But other than that, there‘s a great deal of loyalty.  They‘ve worked together a long time.  And I‘ve got to tell you, I think the relationship between George Bush and Dick Cheney is as solid as ever. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Let me ask you, Mik.  You‘re at the Pentagon every day.  Do you feel the strife between civilian and noncivilian?

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Absolutely.  Now more than ever. 

There‘s—the mood in the Pentagon has shifted dramatically just in the past several weeks.  It‘s more somber.  It‘s more pessimistic than I‘ve ever seen it among the uniformed military. 

But I‘ve got to tell you, I hold some of the top military leaders somewhat responsible. 

MATTHEWS:  The military leaders?

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Right.  There‘s a terrific book by a Lieutenant Colonel McAllister about the Vietnam War.  It‘s called “Dereliction of Duty.” 

And the dereliction of duty, he claims, was on the part of the joint chiefs for refusing to stand up to McNamara, for refusing to stand up to Johnson and telling the cold hard truth. 

And I think in this instance there are some cases where the truth was not told. 

MATTHEWS:  So the soldiers never told the intellectuals back here in Washington that certain things couldn‘t be done? 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  I believe they tried.  I believe they tried.  But ever since Rumsfeld and the rest of the senior Pentagon officials came into the Pentagon there, there was a certain hubris and arrogance. 

They thought everything that the U.S. military wanted to do was just out of self-perpetuation.  And it was Rumsfeld‘s idea that we can do this much smaller, much wider, much quicker than ever before.  And he just refused to buy into what they estimated would be the needs and costs of the war. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back to Dr. Robert Wright and Dana Priest.  More with the panel when we come back. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with our panel. 

Andrea Mitchell, tonight the president is addressing the country at a very critical time.  All the directional signals of polling data say he‘s down.  He‘s not out, but he‘s down.  How‘s he get back up?

MITCHELL:  Well, he has to give some hope.  He has to show that there‘s some hope—light at the end of this tunnel. 

The problem is that while he‘s talking about sovereignty for this new Iraq, Brahimi, the U.N. envoy, has not yet been able to square the circle to close that gap as to who is actually going to be in charge.  And how are you going to protect these people once they take over? 

And is it real sovereignty? And if you look real closely at the U.N.  resolution that the U.S. presented today, it isn‘t real sovereignty.  It‘s just kind of...

MATTHEWS:  Robin Wright, will the world recognize Iraq as independent after we say it is?

WRIGHT:  Well, it will recognize Iraq as having a sovereign government that can negotiate international treaties and debt reduction and so forth. 

But the world will probably also recognize that Iraq is still dependant on foreign armies to protect it, both the government as well as the whole country. 

MATTHEWS:  Can we count on Brahimi to actually set up a government over there that‘s credible and it can defend itself?

WRIGHT:  I think that Brahimi has some very interesting ideas about how to blend both the parties who have been part of the governing council, appointed by the United States, and with some technocrats, some new faces, new names that will add some credibility. 

Of course there‘s the issue of the balance within the regime and—but I think he‘s on a positive course.  And I suspect that we‘ll see an announcement within the next week or so. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the president is speaking to the world tonight?  And if so, what‘s his message?

WRIGHT:  Very much.  He‘s speaking and asking for international support in a way that the United States was unwilling to ask a year ago on the eve of war. 

MATTHEWS:  A big development.  Thank you very much.  Thank you Robin Wright.

More of the HARDBALL/”Washington Post” special report on the war in Iraq with Dana Priest, Andrea Mitchell, Robin Wright and Jim Miklaszewski.  All of them coming back in just a moment.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, more of our special report with “The Washington Post” on the top-secret tactics used by the U.S. military and the CIA in Iraq. 

But, first, the latest headlines right now. 

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is going to be interesting.  Welcome back to the HARDBALL—this special HARDBALL “Washington Post” special report.  We‘re taking a look a some of the secret tactics tonight that have been used by the CIA and the U.S. military. 

We asked Dana Priest of “The Washington Post” to give us a little history lesson on this issue—Dana. 

PRIEST:  Yes. 

U.S. interrogation tactics are in the spotlight now because of the prison abuse scandal.  U.S. officials, they say this is an aberration.  But, really, history tell us otherwise. 

MATTHEWS:  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRIEST (voice-over):  1970, Con Son Prison, South Vietnam, American congressmen and staff discover secret tiger cages for South Vietnamese political prisoners.  They are beaten and starved.  Their legs are withered from the cramped conditions.  “LIFE” magazine publishes the photos.  The world is shocked. 

The 1980s, President Reagan‘s counterinsurgency wars in Central America.  The CIA trains Brutal Honduran army intelligence unit, Battalion 316.  Its interrogation methods?  Electric shock, suffocation, murder.  In 1995, human rights activist Jennifer Harbury throws the national spotlight on to the CIA once again, this time in Guatemala.  She testifies on her husband‘s death by torture at the hands of paid CIA informants. 

JENNIFER HARBURY, WIDOW:  My husband was kidnapped, held in a secret prison, tortured and assassinated without a trial through use of my own tax dollars. 

PRIEST:  One 1983 American interrogation manual incorporates CIA tactics from 20 years earlier on the use of threats, fear and pain and adds lessons on interrogation garnered from the Vietnam War.  The emphasis is placed on manipulating the subject‘s environment. 

THOMAS BLANTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVES: The CIA went back in with a pencil marked through some of these lines, so that the first time around, the manual says, while we do not stress these techniques, we want you to be aware of them.  And the second time around, there‘s a little line through those do not stress and it says on top, these methods, and we want to you avoid them. 

And it changes like that all the way through, where the person who is being trained can see the words underneath.  I‘m not sure it fooled anybody. 

PRIEST:  In a post-9/11 war on terror, there‘s a new urgency to extract intelligence from suspected terrorists.  Even top administration officials hint that past restrictions no longer apply. 

COFER BLACK, COUNTERTERRORISM COORDINATOR, STATE DEPARTMENT:  This is a very highly classified area.  But I have to say that all you need to know, there was a before 9/11 and there was an after 9/11.  After 9/11, the gloves come off. 

PRIEST:  Today‘s techniques, approved at the highest level, include food and sleep deprivation, constant noise, and stressful physical positions.  Those who cooperate are rewarded, hot baths and meals, rest and sometimes money.  But uncooperative suspected terrorists are sometimes secretly kidnapped or—quote—“rendered” for harsh interrogations to other countries like Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. 

BLANTON:  So the problem that you get into, when the CIA is there with both feet and with boots on, is the same problem we saw in Vietnam.  Our allies put people in tiger cages.  And we could say, oh, it wasn‘t us.  But was it?  We were given the orders.  We were doing the training.  They knew what we wanted, which was information out of these people.  So where does the responsibility lie? 

PRIEST:  They don‘t go to court.  They never see a lawyer.  They just disappear.  That‘s the point. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  So, Dana, what we‘re seeing in all these horrible pictures the last couple weeks is not the worst.  Some of these people are being shipped off to third countries, where they have absolutely no scruples about what to do with prisoners. 

PRIEST:  That‘s right.  And that‘s at the CIA‘s hands.  Abu Ghraib, the big question there is, did they take the leeway given to the CIA to be harsher with terrorists and water it down, but use it in the military at Abu Ghraib?

MATTHEWS:  So what actually you‘re saying is, this is the tip of the iceberg, to use an old cliche.  Only this time, we‘re seeing a softer treatment.  So the guys with crap all over their backs, the guys being asked to do all these ridiculous things sexually, all that‘s nothing compared to what‘s being done by the third countries we‘re shipping these guys off to. 

PRIEST:  Which, unless Congress asks, we will never know.  These people leave.  They disappear.

MATTHEWS:  But aren‘t they sworn as members of the CIA to lie?  And if Congress calls them in and say, did you ever ship a guy to Egypt or to some horrible Arab country in the middle of nowhere where they‘ll do anything, they‘ll say no? 

PRIEST:  No.  In fact, they tell Congress.  They tell a very small number of members of Congress on the Intelligence Committee what they‘re could doing.  Those people know. 

MATTHEWS:  How many people do you think have disappeared so far and have been killed by us, by rendering, it is called? 

PRIEST:  It is impossible to tell, but there are dozens. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And what‘s the purpose of all this?  Is it to get intel or to kill people? 

PRIEST:  It‘s to get intel by using very harsh techniques that the CIA itself will not use.  So they send them to Egypt, which has a well-documented human rights abuse problem, when they can no longer do anything with them. 

MATTHEWS:  Mik, let‘s talk about the military.  Everybody in America looks up to the military, everybody.  And we want to always do that.  There‘s something clean about it.  These guys are not politicians.  They‘re not doing it for the money, right? 

Is this besmirching the role of the United States military to be given these lousy jobs?  The M.P.s, I‘m talking about. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Well, first of all, the M.P.s are reserves.  They weren‘t adequately trained to do this.  They were dumped into the prison.  They were told that they were going to have to stay there longer.  They were due to go home.  And all of a sudden, they‘re told, no, you are going to have to stay for a long time. 

MATTHEWS:  So they‘re already ticked off. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Already ticked off.  But the—but the glare—but what jumps out of the Taguba report is, the lack of command leadership was stunning.  There was nobody telling these M.P.s what to do on a daily basis. 

And as I understand it, when civilians would walk in, those low-level military, those M.P.s, would look at the civilians as if they had the authority.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Anybody without a regular uniform was a high-ranking officer, basically? 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Absolutely. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, without the insignia, they said, well, you‘re either CIA or you‘re contract, but I‘m taking your orders?

MIKLASZEWSKI:  That‘s exactly what happened.

Now, it doesn‘t excuse the individuals.  They shouldn‘t have been doing what they were doing.  They knew that it was wrong and they should have reported it up the chain of command and did not. 

MATTHEWS:  Can they get out of this by law?  In other words, when they go to court and try to defend themselves, these military...

MIKLASZEWSKI:  No.

MATTHEWS:  ... can they say, this guy with the red hair came in to see me or this guy who is 8 feet tall came in? 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  No.

MATTHEWS:  How are they going to identify the people who gave them the orders? 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Well, they will be able to identify them because there is a record of who was at the prison. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  And they‘ll be able to track these people down.  But they won‘t be able to get away with what they did, those specific acts. 

MATTHEWS:  But they will be able to trace—they will be able to trace the orders up, though, in other rank.

PRIEST:  And that‘s what General George Fay is doing right now.  And that‘s the bigger shoe to drop.  Who in military intelligence was given those orders?  Who knew precisely?  There‘s already an indication that perhaps General Sanchez knew.  He denies it.  But this is going to go higher up the chain of command.  You can bet that.

MATTHEWS:  And it stays in the news for weeks, right?

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Oh, absolutely.

MITCHELL:  A couple of good points. 

MATTHEWS:  Andrea.

MITCHELL:  The contractors who were brought in who were doing prison guard duty, some of them had horrendous records in the domestic American criminal system. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  Yet they weren‘t properly screened.  They were in there. 

You know, how do you explain that?  The other thing is that the Red Cross repeatedly tried to get in and were facing resistance.  So there seems to have been from the very top on down an attitude toward the International Red Cross that this was some sort of wishy-washy do-gooder group, that they didn‘t have a right to be in there. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It remind me of Sergeant Markoff in the movie “Beau Geste,” who was thrown out of the Siberian army for cruelty.  Let‘s go.  And he ends up in the Foreign Legion. 

Let‘s to go to Robin. 

Internationally, it seems to me that this doesn‘t make us look like the liberators over there.  We‘re using CIA tactics in our military prisons.

WRIGHT:  Absolutely.

And, in fact, there was a very interesting session at the Brookings Institution today in which of the top scholars said, the United States is today part of the problem, not part of the solution in Iraq.  And that applies to a certain degree in the international community as well.  We are viewed not only here but everywhere as contributing to the tensions in Iraq, to the volatility and to the violence. 

MATTHEWS:  Did all this come from the top?  If two or three months ago, we heard we were practicing a get-tough policy with the prisoners, the average American would have paid attention:  Tough.  They deserve what they get.

When the pictures came out, all of sudden, we‘re ashamed.  We‘re ashamed.  But did the top people, all the way up to the president, know we were getting very tough with our prisoners and using these tactics? 

WRIGHT:  Absolutely. 

The president signed off on a more aggressive post-9/11, go after the

terrorists.  Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Wolfowitz, signed off on a

version of interrogation tactics.  We don‘t know the full story yet.  But

they did sign off, after long debate that included their military lawyers

disputing some of this.  They signed off on

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I hope we have a debate this summer, when the president—the two guys running against each other, Bush and Kerry, I hope we have a national debate with 100 million people watching about what kind of tactics we‘re willing to use as a country against prisoners we take in and how rough we‘re willing to be, whether the CIA rendering them to third-party countries or our own guys doing it or reservists then, because we‘re doing this stuff.  And you say it comes from the top.  Then it ought to be voted on. 

Andrea.

MITCHELL:  Well, in fact, there was a big debate internally over whether the Guantanamo prisoners, whether al Qaeda prisoners should be treated differently.  And they decided that they should be treated differently. 

MATTHEWS:  Tougher.

MITCHELL:  That they were outside the Geneva Conventions. 

And that hasn‘t been fully addressed.  Kofi Annan objected to it.  Colin Powell objected to it.  And at every meeting that Colin Powell goes to around the world, different countries, the Brits, other countries, complain about prisoners who have not been adjudicated in Guantanamo. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And we‘re the good guys.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  One of the people at the heart of this is the Pentagon general counsel, William Haynes, who gave these very liberal interpretations of the Geneva Convention.  He is nominated now for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which may be some rough sledding at this point. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He may look like a hanging judge to me. 

Let me go to Dana Priest.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  White House counsel who could some day

(CROSSTALK) 

MITCHELL:  ... Supreme Court.

MATTHEWS:  Alberto Gonzales, who loosened up on the Geneva Convention personally. 

Thank you, Dana Priest.  Thank you, Andrea Mitchell.  Thank you, Jim Miklaszewski.  And thank you in absentia, Robin Wright in “The Washington Post” newsroom, which has been our partner on this broadcast.

Coming up, we‘ll preview President Bush‘s big speech tonight—I should call them remarks tonight—they‘re very careful about that—on the future of Iraq with “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman and MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Up next, a preview of President Bush‘s big speech on the future of Iraq coming up at the top of the hour.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

At the top of the hour, of course, President Bush will deliver a series of remarks, a major address, some people think, from the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  It‘s going to be on the future of the U.S. involvement in Iraq, obviously.

For a preview, we‘re joined right now by Joe Scarborough, the host of “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY,” seen here on MSNBC at 10:00 Eastern, and “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman, who is an MSNBC—actually, he‘s an NBC News political analyst, a bit up from us there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go right now to Joe. 

Joe, your sense of the president‘s mission tonight?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  Well, the president has to do a very good job explaining—he‘s got to go back to the basics.  He has GOT to explain again why we‘re there, why all the bad news people have been reading for the past six months is not as important as his main objective, which he says is bringing democracy to the Middle East in whatever form. 

And he has got to explain, just like he explained before the war, why that is still important, despite the fact that almost 800 Americans have died in combat over there, despite the fact that there are a lot of obstacles before us.  He needs to explain.  We‘re in the home stretch.  June 30 is the day we hand over authority to the Iraqi people.  But he‘s going to—of course, he‘s going to tell them that, even after the 30th, it is going to be tough. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Howard.  It seems to me that we have a new CBS poll out tonight.  And these are always difficult polls for the administration lately; 65 percent of the American people, about two-thirds, think the country is heading in the wrong direction.  That seems to set up a challenge for the president.  Either, he has to convince the people they‘re wrong, we are headed in the right direction, or suggest an alteration in the direction we‘re taking. 

What is he going to do?  What‘s it‘s going to be?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  He isn‘t really doing either. 

About 14 months ago, we sat here after George Bush‘s press conference.  And you said, how is he selling himself?  I said, he is portraying himself as Shane.  He‘s the lone cowboy.  He is going out there.  He‘s saying trust, me.  I‘m slow to anger, but I know the facts and I‘m going out there.  Follow me. 

So the country followed him.  Now we‘re out in the middle of nowhere.  We‘ve got the arrows raining down.  And now the people who are accompanying him are saying, we want a plan, sir.  Give us a plan.  We trusted you to take us this far.  We don‘t like the results right now.  What is your plan plan?  So he‘s not going to concede error.  I talked with Dan Bartlett, the communications director, this afternoon at the White House today. 

He said, we‘re not going to relitigate the rationale for the war.  So he‘s not going to say, here are the five reasons why we did this to begin with.  He‘s going to say, here‘s the plan from here on out.  The problem with the plan is that it depends on the kindness of strangers.  It depends on Brahimi.  It depends on the Security Council.  It depends on the Europeans.  It depends on factors on the ground that we can‘t really control. 

But he‘s going to have to show a skeptical band of people who have gone out west with him that it is somehow going to work. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Joe, it seems to me that one of the strengths of the Republican Party over the last 10 or 20 years has been, it offers people relief from big government, relief from taxes, relief from regulation, relief from the stuff they don‘t like about government. 

And here‘s the president saying, I want to you put up with some real hell from government.  We‘re going, we‘re taking this country over to Iraq.  So there is going to be casualties.  And we‘ll be embarrassed by some of the things that happen, like this prison thing.  But believe in me.  Invest in this—invest in this big-government, ambitious project in Iraq. 

It seems to me more like a Madeleine Albright/Kosovo-type war than a Republican war to me.  It doesn‘t seem like a defensive war.  It seems like a complicated, Democratic, big-government project that happens to be on the other side of the world. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, well, actually, you know what?  I would agree with you if this had happened on September the 10th.  But September 11 changed everything.

I still believe that most Americans in their gut believe that the president deciding to take this country to war in Iraq was the right thing to do.  I know that there are polls out there that are responding, again, to months and months of some very negative news stories out there.  But, again, Madeleine Albright and Kosovo, Madeleine Albright and Bosnia, that‘s what Charles Krauthammer called foreign policy as basically social do-goodism.  

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But...

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s not Republican thinking from every Republican I know.

SCARBOROUGH:  No, it‘s not Republican thinking.  And this is not a Kosovo war, where you‘re not going into a three-sided civil war to try to alleviate suffering from people that are fighting each other. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Listen, in the end—and I guess a president can‘t just come out and say this—we aren‘t over there completely for the Iraqi people.  We‘re over there because the president believes and a lot of people around him believe and I believe, I still believe that a free and democratic Iraq is a revolutionary concept, as revolutionary as what happened in Iran in 1979. 

And if you look at what‘s happening in Iran next door, where 70 percent of the Iranians are under 30 years old, they hate the theocratic government in Iran, I do believe that history is on the president‘s side.  The president needs to tell the American people that, though.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I would feel a lot better if I saw one Iraqi, Howard, shoot another Iraqi for shooting an American, just one guy to put his gun up and said, how dare you shoot an American?  It seems like nobody is actually on our side over there. 

FINEMAN:  That hasn‘t happened that I know of. 

And, again, what the president is going to focus on, from now through June 30, is how we get out of this mess, basically.  That‘s essentially what he‘s saying. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he admitting that it‘s a mess?

FINEMAN:  No, he is not going to say so.  He‘s going to say, this is the way forward.  And he‘s going to do a lot of things that he once said he wasn‘t going to do..

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a tricky challenge.

FINEMAN:  ... like rely on the international community. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Chris?

MATTHEWS:  The hardest thing tonight, Joe, is to convince people that there‘s room for hope but, not set us up for another bad bit of news and have our hopes dashed.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to come back and talk to Joe when we come back. 

You‘re first up when we come back. 

Joe Scarborough, Howard Fineman, we‘re going to wait until the president‘s speech.  It‘s coming up.  It‘s called a set of remarks.  I think he‘s setting the bar low, but everybody is watching.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman and MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough.

Joe, the election is coming up in November.  To be a little bit cynical, the president has to get the people to at least buy what he‘s doing through that election.  Is there something he can say tonight that will last that test of time, at least through November, that says, yes, we‘re getting somewhere no matters what happens after that?

SCARBOROUGH:  No.

I don‘t think what the president says tonight is going to determine what happens in November.  I think what is going to determine what happens in November is June the 30th.  And you know what?  It colors absolutely everything else.  The president—the president has been receiving economic numbers that most presidents would kill for in an election year.  You‘re still seeing poll numbers going down, people saying the country is going in the wrong direction.

So Americans are going to be looking at what happens on June 30 and beyond to make their determination on whether they want to reelect this guy. 

And I want to say just one thing very quickly.  You said it looked like, oh, the Iraqis were against us.  That certainly is a picture that we see not only on this network, but all the other networks.

MATTHEWS:  No, I didn‘t say that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, I thought you said something along those lines.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, I said something very particular that I thought through, Joe, and tell me what you think of it.  I said, it‘s not that they‘re all shooting at us.  Only a few are shooting at us.  But nobody is shooting back at them when they shoot at us.  There‘s nobody coming to our defense in a country we‘re supposedly trying to help.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, there‘s a damn good reason. 

Because, in 1991, the Shiites were encouraged to revolt.  When they did revolt, we backed out.  We left early.  They were slaughtered.  The Kurds were slaughtered in 1988, ‘89, while America sort of stood by and did nothing.  They‘re very scared.  They‘ve been terrorized for 35 years.  all I can tell you is—and I don‘t think these soldiers are lying to me.  I represented a military district.  I get flooded with e-mails.  I get pictures.  I get so much positive news, not from generals or colonels.

I don‘t know get it from the lower-ranking guys and the women that send me stuff and show me these pictures of these Iraqi kids.  And it‘s not propaganda.  These kids believe it.  And if these kids who are over there, who are sacrificing their all for this effort, believe it, I think we should have a president that can convey that to the American people. 

That‘s going to be his mission, to be as compelling in his talk to the American people and the world as these troops are when they send me or you or other people e-mail saying, we really believe in what we‘re doing over here.  We‘re brining freedom to the Middle East.

MATTHEWS:  Let me get another view here.  Howard, Anthony Zinni, the former top commander in that part of the world for the United States, has really come out hard on “60 Minutes” the other night, blasting the civilians in the Defense Department, blasting the current policy.  Is that going to have an impact?

FINEMAN:  It has had an impact already, that kind of critique.  If you look at the polls, people right now are very skeptical about whether this war was worth it in terms of the bottom line, which is, are we more secure than we were on 9/11. 

I‘ve thought that that is always going to be the No. 1 question in this election.  Are we more secure?  Not clear that this war has made us so, at least according to the gathering majority of the American people.  What The president has to do tonight is not reargue that case, specifically, but say, here is how we are going to make the best of this situation, stay true to our principles our trying to bring democracy to the region, but not be there forever. 

We‘ve lost hundreds of hundreds of men and women, thousands injured for life, thousands of Iraqis dead, etcetera.  Why was—not why was that worth it, but how we get out. 

MATTHEWS:  And it is going to end. 

FINEMAN:  It is going to end at some point. 

MATTHEWS:  It is going to end.  I think that is the big message both of you have. 

Anyway, thank you very much, Joe Scarborough, once again, Howard Fineman, as always.  He‘s staying with us. 

President Bush‘s speech on the future of Iraq is coming up in just a moment. 

END   

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