updated 7/8/2005 12:01:03 PM ET 2005-07-08T16:01:03

Guest: John Lehman, Timothy Roemer, Asa Hutchinson, George Pataki,

Stryker McGuire

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  A rush hour blitz strikes London, 37 dead, 700 wounded in the worst attack there since World War II.  President Bush, in Scotland for the G8 asks or extra vigilance back here at home, as the alert level spikes for buses, subways, trains. 

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I'm Chris Matthews. 

At least 37 are dead and more than 700 injured in this morning's rush hour blitz in London.  Prime Minister Blair left the G8 Summit to address the British people. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  They're trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cow us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, of trying to stop us going about our business as normal as we're entitled to do.  And they should not and they must not succeed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Tonight, we'll hear from CIA veterans, terrorist trackers and the New York state governor, George Pataki, to check out our own safety here at home. 

But first, for a minute-by-minute report on today's rush hour blitz is NBC News' Jim Maceda. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM MACEDA, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, British authorities have been bracing since 9/11 for a large-scale terror attack.  When it happened, it paralyzed much of the capital in the deadliest strike in London since World War II. 

(voice-over):  In the city with the most surveillance cameras in the world, it looks like any other busy Thursday in London this morning;

8:51, at the height of the rush hour, the detonation in a subway train in the heart of East London's financial district. 

Amateur video captures some of the mayhem.  The explosion kills seven.  Subway officials think the cause is a power surge. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All the chief stations are shut down, all of them.

MACEDA:  Eight fifty-six, a second explosion rocks another subway train.  Passengers would have seen this as they entered a deep tunnel under King's Cross Station, a hub for north London.  The blast kills at least 21.  It would be the deadliest attack of the day.  This man was riding in the front of the train. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was in the front carriage.  And people were severely injured there.  But I've heard—and I don't know if it's right—that people were even worse further back. 

MACEDA:  And there is more; 9:17, witnesses report an explosion involving several trains inside the Edgware Road station in West London, a predominantly Muslim area, five dead. 

About this time, the Greenwell (ph) family from Memphis, Tennessee, walk off a tourist bus and into their hotel nearby. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The hotel was being used as a makeshift hospital. 

MACEDA:  Nine forty-seven, and bus number 30 is ripped apart by a fourth blast near Russell Square, a tourist center, killing at least two passengers. 

By now, the police are calling the attacks a highly coordinated act of terrorism. 

BRIAN PADDICK, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE:  The police service received no warning about these attacks.  And the police service has received no claims of responsibility from any group in connection with these attacks. 

MACEDA:  British Prime Minister Tony Blair cut short his working day at the G8 Summit of major industrialized nations in Scotland to be briefed back in London.  He blames Islamic extremists. 

BLAIR:  When they tried to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided and our resolve will hold firm. 

MACEDA:  By early evening, what would have been a rush for cars, buses and trains turns into waves of eerily quiet commuters walking out of the city, trying to head home. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just keep walking and walking and see where we get.  It is just chaos up that way. 

MACEDA (on camera):  Scotland Yard will now be pouring over all that surveillance video to try to determine just how such an attack could occur in what has been considered to be one of the world's safest cities—Chris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, NBC's Jim Maceda, for that report. 

Stryker McGuire is the London bureau chief for “Newsweek.”

Stryker, tell me about the mood right now in London. 

STRYKER MCGUIRE, LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, right now, it's changed so much from this morning. 

The way—the city is now reminds me a bit of what happens when an earthquake hits Los Angeles, where, you know, parts of the city clearly are devastated and yet you go around the corner and everything is normal.  London is, of course, not inured to terrorism, but it—you know, it has lived through invasions all across its history.  It's lived through terror in recent decades.

And it is handling this with amazing resilience, I think. 

MATTHEWS:  Are the people talking about why it is happening?  Do they connect it to the war in Iraq or do they accept it as just bad news? 

MCGUIRE:  Well, certainly bad news and I suspect that, as we find out more and more about what exactly happened, who did this and so forth, they will make a connection to the war in Iraq. 

But I don't think that that necessarily will mean that the anti-war sentiment against Blair, the prime minister, will come back to haunt him.  I think that—that people will see this as terrorism and that they will—they will back the prime minister as somebody who is fighting terrorism. 

MATTHEWS:  So it's possible that he could win the battle of “I told you so”s? 

MCGUIRE:  Well, he is—you know, he is a very fortunate man in many, many ways. 

I mean, just yesterday, he got the Olympics in London for 2012.  Everybody thought Paris was going to get it.  He is.  But he also handles these things very well, with great—he's very articulate.  He's resolute.  He's strong.  He was clearly very angry today.  But he didn't swagger.  He handled it I think with great panache. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much for that report, Stryker McGuire of “Newsweek.”

President Bush and the leaders of the First World nations are in Scotland for the G8 Summit. 

NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell is there. 

Kelly, the president's feelings today, the president's actions today. 

KELLY O'DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, good evening, Chris. 

Really, the first focus was on Tony Blair, the host of the summit.  He was the one who actually broke the news to President Bush and the other leaders assembled here about the attacks.  And then that set off a chain of events.  The president called in his national security adviser.  They put together one of those secure video conferences tying Washington to Scotland, so they could monitor the crisis and make decisions. 

Now, the president also wanted to walk a fine balance of participating in the meetings with the other leaders here about the substantive issues, like Africa aid and climate change, but also, his aides say, stepping away, as he needed to, to check on things.  At one point, he wanted to watch the televised news conference of his secretary of homeland security, who talked about and made the announcement about those alert levels raised back in the U.S.  The president wanted to see that for himself. 

So, throughout the day, advisers say that he walked that balance, participating in the meetings, advising the other leaders, and as well as staying in touch with the matters at home. 

The president also took time to speak to the public, not only those at home, but to the British public, offering his condolences and a show of solidarity. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The war on terror goes on.  I was most impressed by the resolve of all the leaders in the room.  Their resolve is as strong as my resolve. 

And that is, we'll not yield to these people.  We'll not yield to the terrorists.  We will find them.  We will bring them to justice.  And, at the same time, we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL:  And President Bush met again with Tony Blair tonight. 

The prime minister had spent about eight hours in London and aides say the men were all able to get together again when he returned.  That return important in part because all of the leaders here said they wanted to send a message that, although this terror struck day and there is great heartache, they also wanted to stay at the work that brought them together. 

So, they wanted to show the terrorist, the leaders said, that they would not bend to their actions.  So, it really was a day of competing emotions and competing responsibilities, Chris.   

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Kelly O'Donnell, who is with the president at the G8 meeting in Scotland. 

So, who perpetrated these terror attacks? 

For that, we go to NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell. 

Is there any hard evidence yet about the role of al Qaeda or a related group in this horror, Andrea? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Jack Straw, the foreign minister, the foreign secretary, in London, who is the secretary of state, if you will, for the Brits, said that he believes that there is evidence that it is al Qaeda. 

There has been a lot of indications that it could be an al Qaeda imitator, if not al Qaeda proper.  The M.O. of al Qaeda is a coordinated, major attack.  Some terror experts here do not think that this one, as horrible as it was, was big enough, because it was not even as large as the Madrid attacks in 2004, which were 12 simultaneous explosions. 

But there were indications.  There were some warnings that U.S.  officials have shared with me and with some of our other people here at NBC News that, in fact, there was intelligence that al Qaeda wanted to replicate the successful, highly successful, Madrid attacks and do it in London, so that there was some indication that this was shared with our allies, especially, of course, the British. 

The Madrid attacks, as you know, were timed to coincide to go—to come right before the Spanish elections and led to the falling of that Spanish government.  And the British do believe that this was timed to coincide with the summit in Scotland. 

MATTHEWS:  What struck me, Andrea, was the timing this morning in London, London time. 

MITCHELL:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Greenwich time.  You saw that the clock tick in the way that it did here on 9/11.  A few minutes would pass, then another strike.  A few minutes more, another attack.  It seemed like the coordination of the four events in London today, the three in the underground, the one with the double-decker, seemed to replicate, in a small horrible way, 9/11. 

MITCHELL:  Yes. 

And, in fact, subways are vulnerable.  This is the fourth attack on rails in Europe in the past 18 months, three in subways, one in Moscow in February of 2004, then, of course, that horrific Madrid attack March 11, 2004, and now London here.  There had been also an attack on—by Chechen rebels.  And these—these are four attacks by Islamic extremists.

So, I'm not including the Japanese attack in Tokyo a decade ago.  But there was an attack on a train heading toward Moscow exactly a month ago in fact by Chechen rebels.  So, this is a pattern.  And it is because they are softer targets.  They are more vulnerable.  The airlines have become better protected, better defended and it is harder, with all of those entrances, to screen passengers. 

In fact, there's very little, if any, screening of passengers going underground. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell.

Here in Washington, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff announced the terror alert level would be raised from yellow to orange, from elevated to high, for buses, subways and trains nationwide. 

NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory joins us now. 

Well, that brings it home, doesn't it, David? 

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  It really does. 

This was the first test not only for Secretary Chertoff at Homeland Security, but also a test for the reorganization of the government after 9/11, with the new director of national intelligence, homeland security advisers, the National Terror Threat Center, all of this coming together, the president oversees, the vice president concluding his vacation in Wyoming, not even in Washington. 

The president convenes via a video secure link, a meeting with homeland security advisers first thing this morning, gets the message out, which is, you need to tell local authorities what's happening and to step up their vigilance. 

We've also heard Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff say that they want to bring a cool-headedness to the terror alert system, not to raise anxieties unduly in this country.  And I think that's why, Chris, you saw this targeted elevation for just the mass transit sector.  But I also think it underscores the fact that this is a vulnerable sector.  Everybody understands that.  And so, even though there's a—an elevated baseline, as Secretary Chertoff said today, of preparedness, it goes up yet further now. 

MATTHEWS:  When you travel on an airplane, David, as you know, you're heavily check.  You may be scrutinized.  You may be frisked.  Certainly, your shoes are taken off, electronic surveillance.  You have to go through a screen, everything you carry.  Is there any way that you can do that with a subway? 

GREGORY:  Well, I think there is technology—well, first of all, there may be technology in the future that can be deployed to detect any kind of bomb residue that may be entering a station.  That may be years away to implement in a realistic, practical way. 

But I think, with an elevated alert right now, we know, since 9/11, that local authorities, in transit systems in Chicago or Los Angeles or here in Washington, D.C., you have more spot checks that go on.  You have a bigger police presence.  And I think that gets stepped up ever more now. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, David Gregory at the White House. 

Still to come this hour, we'll look at the specific steps being taken around this country to shore up security on trains and subways, plus, we'll look to two of the 9/11 commissioners about whether we're really any safer right now than we were on 9/11, four years ago.

And when we return, New York's 9/11 governor, George Pataki, will be with us.

You're watching HARDBALL's live coverage of the attacks today in London on MSNBC. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We were all trapped like sardines waiting to die.  And I honestly thought my time was up, but—as did everyone else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, how safe are America's transit systems?  We'll ask the former number two at Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson, plus, New York Governor George Pataki—when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Today, New York Governor George Pataki sent his condolences to Londoners and urged New Yorkers to be alert to terrorist threats, but unafraid.  He joins us now from New York.

Governor, I remember you in the days of 9/11, immediately thereafter.  What were your feelings tonight on hearing it happened to London? 

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI ®, NEW YORK:  Well, of course, the minute you hear it, you think of September 11.  And you think of—the first thing I think of are the individuals. 

You know, you don't worry about numbers.  You worry about individuals and you think of the friends that I lost on September 11 and that Londoners are now going through that same experience.  You also immediately start thinking about New York and what we have to do to make sure we are as safe as we can possibly be. 

But right now, our thoughts, our prayers are with the people of London.  I talked to the consul general here in New York a few hours ago.  And I believe the British people know that New Yorkers, Americans, civilized people around the world stand with them in this very, very difficult hour. 

MATTHEWS:  What about our own self-protection?  I keep thinking—

I was telling you before we went on the air of that 7th Avenue entrance at Penn Station in New York, where everybody get on the escalator, thousands and thousands of people getting on the subway ultimately every evening and every morning in New York.  How do you screen them for bombs? 

PATAKI:  Well, Chris, as you know, since September 11, New York has never stepped down from level orange alert.  We've had heightened alert throughout the city and throughout the mass transit system since that date.

And that means more police, more canine units, more vigilance, more security.  We've invested over a half-billion dollars in hardening security in the mass transit system since September 11.  But, when you do get a warning, when you do see an event like this, we take even further steps.  We have—today, we'll have state police riding on the commuter trains.  We have National Guard units out in greater force than they are usually at stations and on the trains. 

Of course, the NYPD is the finest police department anywhere in the world.  And they have additional NYPD members out on the streets patrolling.  We've been at level orange.  We're now at orange-plus.  And we're confident that whatever we can do to secure the lives and the transit system of the people of New York is being done. 

MATTHEWS:  We're watching a picture right now, stock footage of a New York subway and a police officer checking it today, actually.  Is there any way we can check the packages of people that get on the subway? 

PATAKI:  Well, we're doing random checks.  But you can't check the hundreds of thousands, literally hundreds of thousand of people who ride the subways, ride the trains.  You just have to have roving high-level patrols, do spot checks when it is possible.  And probably the most important thing right now is for the public to be the eyes and ears, in addition to the law enforcement authorities. 

And when I spoke with Secretary Chertoff this morning, early this morning, one of the things that we stressed was, if you see an unattended backpack or baggage or a parcel that is just sitting there, contact the authorities right away, because, for all the security we have, ultimately, it is the public, the riding public, that just has to be, first of all, unafraid, go about their ordinary lives with the confidence we're entitled to have as residents and citizens of the greatest country that has ever been, and, yet, at the same time, have this heightened level awareness of your surroundings of things that might not be normal. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you worried about the ports of New York? 

PATAKI:  We're always concerned about everything from the Canadian borders to the airports to the ports.  But the Port Authority has added personnel.  They've put in place some of the most sophisticated detection devices anywhere in the world. 

We know we're vulnerable.  We know we're a free and open society, with close to 300 million people and borders that are more porous than they should be.  But we have taken very dramatic steps since September 11 to—to raise our security levels and raise the efforts we're making to protect the people of New York. 

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for joining us this night, this sad night, Governor George Pataki of New York. 

When our coverage continues, we're going to talk to the former Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, who oversaw the protection of America's transit systems.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  As a result of the attack in London, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raised the threat level for railways, buses and subways to orange, or high alert, today. 

To assess how our mass transit systems are being protected and what the actual risk of attack is right now, we turn to former Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson. 

Your thoughts, as an expert, Mr. Secretary, after watching what happened in London today. 

ASA HUTCHINSON, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY FOR HOMELAND SECURITY:  Well, it reminds you of what happened, of course, in Madrid and, before that, in Moscow.

And, so, clearly, al Qaeda has focused on transportation systems in Europe.  They focused on the rail systems.  Although we don't know yet, clearly, the synchronized attack gives all the indications of al Qaeda. 

Here in the United States, your thoughts have to go to our systems that are here.  And these have been developed over decades without regard to security, the transit systems have.  And now we're starting to build in the security.  But we have to get something that can move people quickly, recognize our dependence upon freedom of movement and commerce.  And to develop better security consistent with that, that's our challenge. 

MATTHEWS:  My guess is, most people like myself don't like being called soft targets.  But we all, aren't we?  Most of us are soft targets, because we get on subways.  We take mass transit system in the inner cities and we get on things that don't have checking, don't have screening, don't have frisking.  You just get on, right? 

HUTCHINSON:  Absolutely.  And the malls would be a soft target as well that are typically unprotected in our society.  What you have to remember, though, in our transit system, is that there is a lot of security that you do not see. 

It could be the surveillance cameras, a nonuniformed police officer.  It could be the canine dogs that you would actually see.  But there are systems that are out there that makes it more difficult.  But, as long as you move people in the massive quantity that we do in our systems, there are going to be vulnerabilities.  And we have to be prepared for that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the scary thing is, there were four hits today in London and still we don't even know who did it.  And, certainly, nobody has been brought to justice.  And here we are at nightfall, and it is almost like a clean getaway so far. 

HUTCHINSON:  Well, we don't know whether some of them were suicide bombers or not.  But we know that the police are working very diligently in terms of getting these perpetrators. 

I would add that U.K. has done a good job.  They stopped a—what I believe would have been a very serious attack about a year ago detecting 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, explosive devices in a rental unit.  And so, they have disrupted plots.  But—so, they're very effective.  But this hit them today.  And I hope that they'll be able to be effective in catching the perpetrators. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you punish someone before they attack? 

HUTCHINSON:  Well, you have got to catch them. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean.  Even if you catch them, can you prove what they are going to do? 

HUTCHINSON:  Well, sure.

MATTHEWS:  Yes?

HUTCHINSON:  I think that there's ways that they can prove that. 

And, absolutely, that is our objective.  Intelligence is the key. 

And I hope that, in our society, that we do not respond just by simply putting hundreds of millions of additional dollars into securing the transit systems.  That might be one response.  But we've got to think smartly and invest in the technology and in the intelligence, so that we can better detect those that might pose a risk to those systems. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, former Secretary—

Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson for Homeland Security. 

When we return, two of the commissioners who investigated the 9/11 attacks will join us.  We'll talk about whether we're safer now compared to where we were on 9/11. 

You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  A sobering night.  Back to HARDBALL.  We're continuing to discuss today's coordinated terrorist attacks in London that has claimed the lives of at least 37 people and injured over 700 people today.  Tonight, U.S. officials at every level are preparing for the possibility of an attack here in the United States. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It is a scene that has become painfully familiar. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Then there was a huge bang, a flash.  And then the train came to a grinding halt and filled with acrid smoke and dust. 

SHUSTER:  And the explosions that rocked London today were just the latest in a campaign of terrorist bombings around the world. 

Since 9/11, more than a dozen cities have been attacked.  In March of 2004, bombs at a train station in Madrid, Spain, killed 190.  In May of 2003, in Casablanca, Morocco, 33 people were killed.  That same month, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, suicide bombers killed 34.  And in October of 2002, the nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, killed more than 200. 

Today, as the U.S. government raised the terror alert for the transportation sector...

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  We ask the public to remain alert and to report any suspicious activity. 

SHUSTER:  ... law enforcement officials executed plans they have carried out before.  Across the country, there were more security officers and bomb-sniffing dogs at transportation hubs.  There were stepped-up examinations of suspicious, but ultimately harmless packages and vehicles. 

And local police met to coordinate strategies with the federal agency created after 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security.  But if terrorists strike again, some analysts say the U.S. is still unprepared, especially when it come to transportation.  Preventing a bombing, they say, is impossible, given that only a few train or bus stations ever check passenger identification. 

Then there's the problem when an attack appears to be under way.  Three times over the past year-and-a-half, the U.S. Capitol Building was evacuated, with the occupants simply told by police to run for their lives.  In May, when workers streamed frantically from the White House, officials responsible for nearby traffic downtown were not told until after the all-clear. 

And just last Monday, on the Fourth of July, Washington, D.C., tried to simulate an evacuation, but that effort was plagued by a host of problems, including failed traffic lights. 

(on camera):  The bottom line, according to security analysts, is that the kind of attacks that hit London may be inevitable at bus and train stations here.  And the attacks could be worse.  The question is, are we ready? 

I'm David Shuster for HARDBALL at Union Station in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  We're joined right now by former U.S. Congressman Tim Roemer and former Navy Secretary John Lehman.  Both gentlemen served on the 9/11 Commission. 

Congressman, your first reaction when you heard the news from London this morning. 

TIMOTHY ROEMER, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR NATIONAL POLICY:  Sympathy for the British.  I thought of Winston Churchill's blood, sweat, toil and tears. 

And, also, Chris, I thought of frustration here in the United States.  We've passed 50 percent of the 9/11 recommendations; 50 percent have not been passed.  And on transportation protection here in the United States, we haven't even developed a national strategic plan to allocate the resources based on risk assessment and cost and threat on air, sea and ground. 

MATTHEWS:  Let's talk about big cities. 

We have lots of them in this country.  In fact, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, subways everywhere, in Atlanta, everywhere.  Are we any better protected in our subways than the British are in their tubes, in their underground? 

ROEMER:  Well, the other problem here...

MATTHEWS:  Well, are we protected? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If a person gets on with a package, can we stop them? 

ROEMER:  Well, the 9/11 Commission, we said very forcefully, we are safer, but we're not safe.  And I think this is one of the areas that we're not safe enough in. 

We've seen al Qaeda probably attack, be responsible for London.  They attacked a subway system, a train system in Madrid.  Moscow has been attacked in a subway system.  They haven't been going to the planes.  Yet, we found, in the 9/11 Commission report, that 90 cents on the dollar, 90 percent of $5.3 billion that we've spent since 9/11, was on airport security, not in looking at what al Qaeda might be doing to buses, to trains, to transportation systems.  We need to do a lot more there.  We cannot have a sense of complacency. 

We cannot start to think that we're safe here.  We have to do more. 

This is a long-term war on terror. 

MATTHEWS:  Your first reaction, Mr. Secretary, to the news from London. 

JOHN LEHMAN, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  Well, the same kind of sympathy for our closest ally, but also real concern that, if this can happen in such a coordinated way in the U.K., in London, after all, this is a city that has been dealing with IRA terrorists for 30 years and has, in my judgment, a better internal security system than we do here, if it can happen there, it can certainly happen here. 

And we've been very frustrated on the 9/11 Commission to see that so many of our recommendations dealing with shoring up and removing some of the worst of the vulnerabilities in our rail and other transportation systems have simply not been acted on by Congress.  And this is—this should be a wakeup call, if any more are needed.  We need action. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman, so far, it's a clean getaway.  I assume there's going to be a real effort to catch these people.  But does this have the looks of a professional operation, an al Qaeda operation? 

ROEMER:  Absolutely.  It has the opportunity, the motive and the signature of al Qaeda.  But we don't know who it... 

MATTHEWS:  What is that signature?

ROEMER:  Well, it is this timing that they showed on the Madrid bombings, expert timing, explicit planning, dynamic coordination, flexibility. 

This could be tied to the G8, but it also could be tied to the Iraq war.  They are very good.  Listen, Chris, they've moved from al Qaeda incorporated, centralized in training camps in Afghanistan, to now al Qaeda metastasized, decentralized around the world, where they can try to and expertly did assassinate, killed the Egyptian ambassador in Baghdad today. 

They attacked maybe the London subways.  They have shot at probably in, again, Baghdad, the Pakistani and the Bahraini ministers there.  And, as we've said before, we've seen terrorism occur across the globe.  The fact that the United States hasn't been hit should not make us complacent and in a sense of normalcy. 

We have to have a sense of urgency in this country to finish the job, 50 percent there.  That's not good enough to protect this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Secretary, that's a scary competition, the professionalism of al Qaeda, the horrible professionalism, up against a very vulnerable underground system and the subway system we have here in the country.  How can a subway system win against the professionals? 

LEHMAN:  Well, first of all, I think that we have been successful in preventing a number of these attempts that otherwise would have taken place, thanks in no small measure to information that we've received from a much improved local intelligence, particularly in New York, and by the information we've obtained from the interrogations of captured—captured terrorists. 

So, this is—this, again, is a reminder that we can't ever seal off and turn our country into fortress America.  We can't let them force to us change our free style of life.  But—and, as a result, we have got to keep the pressure on them.  We've got to go find them and kill them and capture them and prevent them from planning and having sanctuaries wherever they may be. 

And I think President Putin's reminder today that we've got to work more cooperatively with all of the nations that are under attack, to share intelligence better, to be more proactive and—and he, rightly, I think, reminded us that the real name of the game, as bad, as horrible as it is to lose 30 or 40 people in a city at a time, the real name of the game are the nuclear weapons that have inadequate secure in many areas of the world. 

And it is time we really got serious about that, because if one of them goes off in one of our crowded cities, that will really transform our institutions. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We'll be right back with former 9/11 commissioners Tim Roemer and John Lehman. 

Our coverage of the London bombings continues after this break.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I thought it was on fire.  And you could just see light outside the carriage. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  It was—it felt like orange light. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dead bodies lay by the side of the tracks. 

Terrible.  Terrible day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All the windows came in.  And none of us knew what happened.  It was mayhem.  And then the driver came out of the carriage and—which was quite scary, because he shone a red light and all—we all thought—I just thought—well, I thought I was dead. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, who is winning this war on terrorism?  A former CIA officer will give us his opinion and tell us if America can expect another attack.

More HARDBALL after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We're back with former 9/11 commissioner Tim Roemer and John Lehman.

Secretary Lehman, let me ask you.  You raised a hot question there.  If you can put an explosive device, TNT, into a train's car or on a double-decker bus, can you put a nuclear bomb in the same place? 

LEHMAN:  Well, it's not quite as easy.  There's been a lot of talk about suitcase bombs.  And they do exist. 

But it certainly is possible to bring a nuclear weapon through security with some level of risk, if you have one.  Now, we don't believe they have one yet.  But there are plenty of vulnerabilities, plenty of nuclear weapons and materials that are inadequately secured in areas of the world that we know al Qaeda and other groups are having their top priority to obtain. 

They then could bring that in through various holes in security.  So, we've got to raise the security on our borders.  We've got to see that we secure the weapon and materials far greater than they are being secured today.  And we have to have a more adequate, to say the least—we're far from adequate—in the security in our trains and subways and buses and transportation systems. 

MATTHEWS:  Right now, you can take Amtrak up to New York from Washington here, where Secretary Lehman is, without going through security.  You really don't have to go through a metal screen.  You certainly—when you're rushing into a street corner or subway stop, you don't have to go through security and check your bags. 

I don't know whether it would work.  So, aren't we extremely vulnerable with subways, particularly, like we saw today?

(CROSSTALK)

ROEMER:  We are.  I think there's something like 6,000 different mass transit systems, bus systems, subway systems in America.  Maybe 14 million a day get on these systems, Chris.   We're not going to completely protect it. 

But getting back to what Secretary Lehman just said, if a dirty bomb or some kind of nuclear weapon, which Osama bin Laden has said to his al Qaeda, it is your religious obligation to get one of these weapons and create a Hiroshima-type activity on America.  We have not—we've declared war on terrorism.  We have not declared war on this kind of potential for terrorists, the most dangerous people that get the most dangerous weapons.  We have to do more there, Chris.  We're not doing nearly enough. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Congressman Roemer.

Thank you, Secretary of the Navy, former Secretary of the Navy John

Lehman

When we return, we'll be joined by former CIA officer Bill Harlow and “The Washington Post”'s Dana Priest to talk about global intelligence and whether we're winning this war on terrorism. 

This is HARDBALL's coverage of the London bombings, the rush hour blitz, on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Bill Harlow from the CIA, now an NBC News analyst, and Dana Priest, the national intelligence reporter for “The Washington Post,” who just came back from Europe, where she met with top security and intelligence officials. 

Dana, the message from today.  Is Europe more vulnerable than we are? 

DANA PRIEST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Oh, definitely. 

All the top counterterrorism officials I talked to in Europe recently said, Europe is the target.  The U.S. has hardened enough that it is easier—it's too hard to get to the United States now if you aren't here already.  Europe and Iraq are the main targets.  And, on top of that, we're obsessed with whether this is al Qaeda.  The judges there say al Qaeda is no longer really the relevant concept, that these are spontaneous groups of people who share an ideology, a jihadist ideology against the West, and may use an existing terrorist logistics network for something.

But, really, they get together and meet one another through a mosque or other thing and decide to do something.  That makes it a lot harder to get at.  But it also probably means law enforcement and intelligence have to work even harder to get at that kind of small group. 

MATTHEWS:  But there's no command central?

PRIEST:  No, no command central. 

I mean, I'm sure that there are al Qaeda still around and operating in Iraq.  But that's the point, no command central often.  In Madrid, there wasn't.  And my hunch is, we will find that here there isn't.

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that, Bill?

BILL HARLOW, NBC ANALYST:  I think there's a good chance that will be the case.  We've done a good job of keeping command central in their caves.  They're hiding and they're trying to stay alive.

MATTHEWS:  That means—you're talking about there, the list of—the most-wanted list the president is after. 

HARLOW:  Those people are being held down. 

But there is another group of terrorists out there that are inspired by them.  They're causing the same kind of trouble for the world.  And, in many cases, they're harder to get to.  They're harder to track.  They're harder to find and harder to fig out how you go about hitting them.  You're going to need to have countries involved, strengthen their laws and trying to keep them under control, prevent them from crossing borders as easily as they do, and trying to keep them under control and penetrate those organizations. 

MATTHEWS:  The old problem of Rumsfeld and metrics.  Metrics.  How do we measure them?  If these people that did this horror today, say, 20 of them, are all in their early 20s, that meant they were in their mid-teens five years ago. 

PRIEST:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  They're growing.

PRIEST:  And they weren't al Qaeda then. 

MATTHEWS:  That's right.  In other words, we keep saying we're going to capture them, like they're an ethnic group.  We're going to capture all the bad guys, when, in fact, they're growing.  They're becoming terrorists.

PRIEST:  If the metrics is a numbers-based one, you're not winning here.  I mean, yes, you've—you've taken out 75 percent of what was al Qaeda before.  But Iraq and other—and for other reasons, a lot more young people in Europe are joining. 

MATTHEWS:  Does it help—excuse me.

Does it help, the fact that they're trying to be so sophisticated?  If they were just a bunch of people, street corner guys who hated the United States or Britain, they would go blow up some subway.  But these were four different attacks, relatively within—just like 9/11, within an hour or so of each other, all coordinated to be on the day that the American president is in Scotland, in the U.K., that the British prime minister is hosting the G8.  All the significance that would hurt the cause of the war effort in Iraq, does that make it easier to catch them when they try to be that sophisticated? 

HARLOW:  Well, just as we've learned from 9/11, the terrorists have learned about 9/11.  And they try to replicate the things that were so successful for al Qaeda. 

If they try to do these kind of things, it helps you perhaps predict when they—you might be more vulnerable than other times.  But they can pick any date.  If it wasn't this one, it could be the next summit meeting or the next conference or the next world gathering.  So, it doesn't make it easy.  It just gives you someplace that you might start looking. 

MATTHEWS:  Any word among the intelligence community that you tap

into occasionally, Dana, that it might be—there might be a fuse line

that goes all the way to the states this time, more attacks coming this

·         this sequence? 

PRIEST:  No, not—not yet. 

I mean, there's no indication of that.  People are still believing that some people from Iraq who are—have now trained to be terrorists, and, in Europe, who are there, will try to come to the United States, but definitely not yet any link to this attack. 

MATTHEWS:  Now the politics, the first time tonight.  The president says, if we attack the terrorists in Iraq, we won't have to attack them here.  Is that logical, Bill? 

HARLOW:  Well, you can't not attack the terrorists wherever they are.  And you want to attack them as far away from your homeland as...

MATTHEWS:  Can you pick them at a time of your choosing and say, we will meet you in Iraq; let's fight?  Does it really work that way?  And I'm dead serious here.  Can we attract them over there like flypaper and get them to go over there and fight them there? 

HARLOW:  No, I don't think it works that way.  But, if you know they're there, then you need to go after them.  But trying to lure them to some location away from us I don't think is going to work. 

PRIEST:  Well, if that was the strategy, it is so poorly executed. 

No one was prepared for the insurgency. 

MATTHEWS:  Zarqawi is there.  Zarqawi is there. 

PRIEST:  But if the strategy that—he's implying the strategy was to go to Iraq to be the flypaper that would attract terrorists.  That's not what happened. 

They came.  And the U.S. military was unprepared for them.  So, it's a rationale now, but it certainly was not a strategy to begin with. 

MATTHEWS:  And, again, you can't limit the number.  You can't imagine the number being limited of terrorists coming at us. 

PRIEST:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Bill Harlow, thank you.  Grim night, sobering night. 

Dana Priest from “The Washington Post.”

Tomorrow on HARDBALL, more on the terrorist attacks in London, plus, big night for us tomorrow night.  Washington sleuth and Deep Throat reporter Bob Woodward is going to be sitting here to talk about his new book, “The Secret Man.” 

Right now, our coverage of the London bombings continues on “COUNTDOWN” with Keith. 

We leave you, by the way, with this somber and impressive note, the U.S. Navy Band playing “God Save the Queen” here in Washington, right outside the British Embassy.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(U.S. NAVY BAND PLAYS “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN”)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

END

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