Guest: Mark Zaid, Anthony Shaffer, T. Boone Pickens, Anthony Principi, Amber Pruett, Tammy Pruett
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Bushwhacked, anti-war Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan countered by Bush-backed Tammy Pruett, whose husband and five sons have seen action in Iraq.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews.
Walter Reed, that grand old medical center that has welcomed and re-armed thousands of Iraq amputees, is about to be axed itself. It‘s about money. Tonight, the chairman of the committee is here to tell us why and how the Army plans to treat its wounded service men and women in the future. He will also fill us in on any further military closures decided about today.
Plus, gasoline fumes, gas fumes. Angry at high gas prices? Well, buckle your seat belt, because they‘re headed higher, well past $3 a gallon, because of refinery problems and even the hurricane now down in the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina. Are we looking at another spike around the corner and more gas price hikes? Well, according to Texas oil man Boone Pickens, who is coming here, yes. And he is going to tell us why.
But, first, the president plays hardball with Cindy Sheehan. He has just given us a counterpoint to the anti-war Gold Star mother.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are few things in life more difficult than seeing a loved one go off to war. And here in Idaho, a mom named Tammy Pruett...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BUSH: I think she‘s here.
BUSH: Knows that feeling six times over.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Tammy has four sons serving in Iraq right now with the Idaho National Guard: Eric, Evan, Greg and Jeff. Last year, her husband Leon and another son Aaron, returned from Iraq where they helped train Iraqi firefighters in Mosul.
Tammy says this, and I want you to hear this: I know that if something happens to one of the boys, they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they think is right for our country. And I guess you couldn‘t ask for a better way of life than giving it for something that you believe in.
America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, even if there weren‘t any debate about this war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, there is no question that Tammy Pruett and her family are true American patriots in every sense of the word.
But has the Bush administration singling her out helped counter the anti-war movement sparked by Cindy Sheehan? Tammy Pruett and her daughter-in-law, Amber, join us now from Idaho.
I have got to ask you, did you know the president was going to make that amazing announcement of your contribution to the cause, Tammy?
TAMMY PRUETT, MOTHER OF U.S. SOLDIERS: No, we didn‘t. No, we didn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Did you hear anything from the White House ahead of time? Did someone call you and say, and ask you about your situation and check out the facts?
T. PRUETT: Yes, they did that.
MATTHEWS: Who was it who that called you? Do you know?
T. PRUETT: They did.
MATTHEWS: Who called?
T. PRUETT: I actually don‘t know.
The first one was from—they justified their name and said they were from the White House and they wanted to—had heard our story on CNN and they would like to verify some facts about the boys. So, my husband actually talked to them and talked about the boys serving now and about his and Aaron‘s time in Iraq. And then that was just sort of the end of it.
Then we heard back later. And they wanted to verify the quote that the president used them. And, again, they spoke to Lee. And he said, yes, she did say that on CNN. And then we were invited...
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry. Go ahead. I‘m sorry.
Amber, what did you—what was your feeling when you heard your mother was singled out by the president out there at that event?
AMBER PRUETT, WIFE OF U.S. SOLDIER: I thought that it was very neat. You could hear all of us in the background just screaming, because we were just so excited.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. You‘ve got a husband and a number of brother-in-laws. I mean, I count—I‘m trying to keep count of all these fellows that are serving, five brothers and—a husband and four brothers-in-law and a father-in-law, all of whom have been in fighting over in Iraq. What does the cause over there mean to you, the fight in Iraq?
A. PRUETT: I know they‘re fixing schools. They‘re helping all the little kids, all the families. They‘re just helping rebuild the city, so they can have a better life.
MATTHEWS: What—when you look at the news at night, whether it‘s NBC or whatever at night, or MSNBC, do you have a sense that you‘re seeing what your husband is telling you about?
A. PRUETT: He doesn‘t tell me too much about all the negativity and stuff. I watch a little bit. I try to really not watch the news a lot, just because I don‘t like seeing all the bad stuff, because that‘s all they show.
Well, what should they be showing in addition to what they do show?
A. PRUETT: I think that they need to show more of the families coming out and thanking the soldiers and just praising them. And they just need to show more of the good causes and everything that is good that‘s happening over there, instead of everything that‘s just bad.
MATTHEWS: What does your husband say about the reaction from the people over there?
A. PRUETT: He actually doesn‘t go out. He stays on base. But my brother-in-law says that he‘s made a big difference. And he gets to go out and visit with the little kids. And he says that he‘s making a difference and he believes that he is doing a good job. And so, I think that that‘s what they need to show a little bit more of.
Well, one reason is, it is pretty dangerous over there, I hear from the reporters over there. Unless you‘re embedded with an Army unit, you don‘t go wandering around the streets of Baghdad or anywhere else over there.
Let me go back to—let me go back to Tammy, your mother-in-law.
Tammy, tell me about your feeling about the public role you‘re playing now. Do you feel comfortable being an example of a mother and a wife who is making this major contribution to the war effort?
T. PRUETT: I do for those reasons, because I‘m a mother and because we believe in the war so strongly. When I speak, I only speak for our family and for our experiences and the boys and Lee‘s experiences in Iraq.
And I‘m not out here to be a poster child for anyone. I just want people to know about our family and how proud we are to serve our country and the dedication that my young men have and how proud they are to be working with the Iraqi people.
MATTHEWS: Well, how are you different than Cindy Sheehan, as you see yourself, and as you see her, watching her in the news? How do you see your roles as different?
T. PRUETT: I don‘t see me as a role vs. hers. She is doing her mourning the way that she feels like it is necessary for her to do. It wouldn‘t be something I would choose to do.
I send her my condolences as a mother. She has suffered a terrible loss. And I very much empathize with that. It wouldn‘t be the way that I would choose to portray myself if something like that happened to one of my sons. I would rather hold them up as a hero dying, like I said in my statement before, doing something that they believe in with all their heart, trying to bring freedom and stability to the Iraqi people.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know as well as I do, being so much a contributor to the courage of the fighting people over there, that this country is divided over the—you know, if you look at the polls, some people, maybe a majority now, say they don‘t think it is worth the cost in lives and men and coming back with amputated arms and legs.
And they say the war is not worth it. And then another big chunk of people say it is. If you‘re one of those people in the chunk that think it isn‘t worth it, how should you express yourself publicly and especially if you lost a son?
T. PRUETT: I think that‘s a very individual thing. The great thing about our country is that we do have the freedom to express how we feel.
That‘s why my kids put their lives on the line every day, is to defend our freedom and to help the Iraqi people gain that same kind of freedom. I wouldn‘t stop anyone from doing that. I will be honest and say, sometimes, it hurts me as a human being. But I have worked really hard at trying to put that in the back, because that‘s what America is founded on, is the freedom that we have and enjoy.
And I can‘t begrudge them their freedom to speak out, like they do, just because I don‘t agree with them.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
I want to ask you something. You wanted to correct something that you said on one of the other broadcasts about your reaction. Somebody, when—asked you thought—whether you thought it was all right to go into someone else‘s home uninvited—it sounds like a loaded question—you said no, but you didn‘t get a chance to explain your exceptions. Do you want to explain yourself now for this national audience?
T. PRUETT: I would love to. Thank you.
Once again, the question is, would I go to someone else‘s home uninvited? And my answer to that would be no, unless, as I walked by, I heard some kind of torture or trouble going on inside that home or if gas fumes were coming out of that home that would hurt someone inside, or if I looked through shuttered windows and saw that there was struggling go on.
And, most importantly, I would go in if I heard a still, small voice say to me that someone inside needed help, and not only would I go inside that door, but I would bust the door down to get there.
MATTHEWS: You should be one of the president‘s speechwriters. You‘re talking like Franklin Roosevelt. You‘re so good at explaining your point of view. Thank you very much. I mean it. I used to be a speechwriter.
T. PRUETT: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: That kind of language is understandable to people. Thank you very much, Tammy and Amber Pruett. Thank you both. It is great to see a mother-in-law and a daughter get along so well.
Up next, the historic Walter Reed hospital is shutting down, the place we went out and talked to all those courageous guys and their families, the amputees. That‘s shutting down. Those people are going to be taken care of at other places.
And also, a lot of other base closings going on today to submit—streamline and save money, but why Walter Reed? It‘s almost like getting rid of West Point. We will ask the chairman of the Base Closings Commission, Anthony Principi.
And, later on in the program, a military officer says a defense intelligence unit identified Mohamed Atta as a member of an al Qaeda cell well before 9/11, but was prevented from sharing that information with the FBI, that could have arrested them. They will tell us why. And I don‘t think the answers are going to be good.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Walter Reed military hospital has treated presidents, foreign leaders and a lot of war veterans. Now it‘s closing because it‘s apparently showing its age—when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
This week, the Commission on Base Closings voted to close or seriously alter the mission of over a dozen bases across the country. On Thursday, the commission voted to close America‘s most famous military hospital, Walter Reed here in Washington. The hospital has treated countless numbers of America‘s vets returning home from every war since World War I , as well as three U.S. presidents.
The chairman of that commission, Anthony Principi, a former secretary of veterans affairs, joins us now.
Sir, I can‘t think of a harder, tougher job with less rewards than the one you‘ve taken on here. But, you know, our program has gone out many times to Walter Reed and, like everyone else in the country, we have sympathized with the hard work they‘ve done out there in people—helping people how to learn to use prosthetics, artificial limbs, the state-of-the-art equipment they‘ve had to use. Why are you shutting down that wonderful institution?
ANTHONY PRINCIPI, CHAIRMAN, BASE CLOSINGS COMMISSION: Well, I have been there countless times as well, Chris. You‘re right. The staff there are dedicated. They‘re doing extraordinary work, especially for the young men and women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with catastrophic injuries.
The problem is, Walter Reed is a very old hospital. It is in dire need of repair and renovation. And the decision to close it is only part of the story. We will build a new Walter Reed Medical Center, a 21st century state-of-the-art facility. It will be located on the grounds of Bethesda Naval Hospital, which has more room, a much larger campus.
And the people who bring Walter Reed to life will be bringing the new Walter Reed to life as well. It really is to ensure that the men and women who are returning from war are getting care in a state-of-the-art facility, with the technology and the staff that they deserve and that they‘ve earned. So, it‘s—and then we will be building another hospital out at Ft. Belvoir, a second community hospital, so that the men and women, the service members who work at the Pentagon in Northern Virginia don‘t have to drive into town. They and their families can access another hospital out at Fort Belvoir.
So, it is a little bit confusing. Yes, the old hospital will be closed down, but a new hospital will rise up.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it is smart to combine all the services? You know, we have grown up in this country with the Marines, who were the first service, and the Navy and the Army, Air Force—Air Force, Coast Guard, etcetera, as separate services. Is it smart to jam them all together in one facility at Bethesda, a Naval facility?
PRINCIPI: Well, you know, all the services receive care at Walter Reed and Bethesda. You know, you don‘t have to be in the Army to go to Walter Reed.
I have received care as a Navy veteran at Walter Reed. And so, it really is a combined facility. And, you know, Walter Reed was built as a 1,000-bed hospital many, many years ago. There are about—less than 200 Wednesday that are occupied. But, at Bethesda, it is also a very large hospital that doesn‘t have that occupancy.
As technology has changed in medicine, we need to build a new hospital that can accommodate the in-patient needs of the population and, again, a second hospital out at Fort Belvoir. So, really, the military today is joined. Our forces are serving together. And, really, a lot about what we‘re doing with base closures is to ensure that we have greater jointness in our war fighting, our training and our readiness.
MATTHEWS: Does President Bush or any president have the clout under the law to veto your decisions?
PRINCIPI: The president can send it back to us, Chris, if he is not happy with the recommendations, our decisions. And we—our choice is to make the revisions and send it back to him or the president ultimately can send it on to Congress, where they can vote up-or-down as a package. They can‘t single out this item or that item.
So, the president really cannot veto it. But he can send it back to us for revision.
MATTHEWS: Is there any favoritism in these decisions for red or blue states, depending on whether they‘re red states and voted for the president, or voted against him in blue states?
PRINCIPI: Not at all. You know, our actions to keep Portsmouth Naval Shipyard up—open up in Maine, New London submarine base in Connecticut, to ensure that we had a military presence in Connecticut. So, our actions really have not been red or blue. It is what‘s right for the men and women in uniform, what makes sense in the 21st century to address the threats that face our nation today, unlike the ones that we faced in the past?
MATTHEWS: Virginia Senator John Warner, he is called the Eagle on Capitol Hill. He‘s a man of tremendous eminence. He says there was a rigging operation here in this base closing pattern, which was meant to thin out the amount of personnel in the capital area. Of course, for his Northern Virginians, that‘s critical. Is he right?
PRINCIPI: No. This process was not rigged, you know, in my opinion.
It‘s been done right.
People disagree with the recommendations that Secretary Rumsfeld sent to us and may disagree with our decisions. But I don‘t believe that‘s true.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
Mr. Secretary, we have to go. Thank you. It‘s a brutal job you‘ve got. Congratulations on your efforts.
Up next, an amazing story of one firefighter who died on 9/11 and how his family decided to turn their grief into something that‘s helping others.
This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Over the next few weeks, you‘re going to see a number of tributes to all those who died four years ago on 9/11. There‘s one tribute we have previewed that deserves special attention. It‘s a documentary about a New York firefighter‘s family. They were determined to turn their grief into something positive that help others.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the morning of 9/11, New York firefighter Stephen Siller was off duty and on his way to Staten Island when he heard over the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Siller immediately turned around and drove to this tunnel which leads back to Manhattan. But the tunnel was completely blocked.
RUSS HODGE, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, “FOR THE LOVE OF THEIR BROTHER”: He took 75 pounds of equipment out of his truck, strapped it on to his back, and ran through the tunnel, which is almost two miles long, with 75 pounds of equipment on his back, got to the other side and was picked up by a rescue vehicle that was going by, got into the second tower. And, a few minutes later, it—it collapsed on him. And he died and his body has never been found.
SHUSTER: While the death of every 9/11 victim was tragic, Stephen Siller‘s passing was especially harsh.
HODGE: He had five kids under the age of 10. And he was thinking of them and a wife he loved very much. And I‘m sure he was torn, but he did what he was supposed to do.
SHUSTER: Siller‘s heroism is chronicled in a documentary airing soon on public broadcasting, but it is a film that also demonstrates the heroism of his six much older brothers and sisters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a miracle and a gift, a gift, a short-lived gift for us, but he was a gift from God.
SHUSTER: You see, 30 years ago, Stephen‘s siblings were all working or in college when their parents died. The baby brother, Stephen, was only 10. Stephen‘s siblings raised him through school, the difficult adolescent years, and his first post-graduation jobs. Eventually, Stephen became a firefighter, a job he said he loved.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was another family, you know, a brotherhood. It was—he was with his brothers sitting there every day talking to other people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, he loved every minute of that. He loved it.
SHUSTER: In the wake of 9/11, Stephen Siller‘s family faced a choice, allow grief to ruin their lives or use it as a catalyst to help others. As the film shows, they asked the city of New York to help them organize an annual memorial run through the Battery Tunnel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boom, boom, boom, one after another. Done. We got the phone call. Hey, you guys, you got the route.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the feeling was more like a block party, a celebration in an athletic competition. It was the ultimate tribute to a free and loving spirit.
SHUSTER: The Tunnel to Towers Run was a success. Local businesses donated equipment and support, and all of the money raised went directly to Stephen Siller‘s favorite charities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we are trying to make something good out of something that was so evil.
SHUSTER: The run has now become a huge annual event. And, already, millions of dollars have been raised for orphans, 9/11 families, and the children of service men and women killed overseas. The Siller family‘s message?
HODGE: Life does go on and it can be beautiful and it can be wonderful and, damn it, sometimes, it really does hurt. And, sometimes, it is really awful, too. But you can find the silver lining in the cloud. If some people find that out of this, then I‘m very, very satisfied as a filmmaker.
SHUSTER: “For the Love of Their Brother” will air on public broadcasting in September.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David. And this year‘s five kilometer run in memory of Stephen Siller will take place on Sunday, September 25.
For more information, go to www.tunneltotowersrun.org. And for information on the documentary David Shuster just showed you, go to www.fortheloveoftheirbrother.com.
When we return, gas prices continue to go up. Can the president, President Bush, really do anything about it?
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It is the summer of soaring gasoline prices and no end in sight, with the cost of regular unleaded climbing higher and higher. Will $3 per gallon become the new $2 per gallon? Boone Pickens is the chairman of BP Capital Management. He has been in the oil business for more than a half-a-century.
Boone, thanks for joining us.
T. BOONE PICKENS, CHAIRMAN, B.P. CAPITAL: Sure.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re identified with this whole question, not with the problem, but with knowing what you‘re talking about. Where are we headed in terms of pump prices for gasoline?
PICKENS: They‘re going up.
MATTHEWS: How high will they go in the near future?
PICKENS: They‘ll go until—price has to go until you kill demand, because you have a supply that is pretty well fixed. So, there is not going to be supply come from anywhere that we don‘t know about.
MATTHEWS: Is the price—is the demand price elastic? Will people stop buying when it gets more expensive?
PICKENS: Well, you went through $50 oil pretty fast. And now we‘re above $60. And demand isn‘t coming off. So, at some point—I don‘t know where it is, but I‘m thinking it is north of $70, that you‘ll start to see people that will—they will cut back on it.
MATTHEWS: Take the bus.
PICKENS: Yes, take the bus.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about—is it—you said it is a—demand is pretty much constant. It hasn‘t come down, despite the rising pump prices for gasoline.
What about—what about supply? What is going on with supply right now?
PICKENS: Supply is—you‘ve just about had it on supply; 85 million barrels a day world supply is about it. And you multiply that times 365 days and that‘s 30 billion barrels of oil a year.
And we can‘t replace 30 billion barrels of oil. So, you‘re going to 85 million. You‘re there. And additions won‘t get you any higher, maybe hold it. But it will start to decline is what will happen. What I‘m concerned about is the fourth quarter of this year. Say 85. Accept my 85 number and then look at demand, and it is going to be about 87 million. And I don‘t know what is going to happen here in the fourth quarter.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about, what is it that limits availability of gasoline? What is the real supply factor? Is it how much you can get out of the ground? Is it how much you can refine?
PICKENS: Both of those. And it is interesting, because if the 85 million—and I know that number is very close -- 85 million supply, that is just about what your refining capacity is, 85 million. And the producers on the other end say, oh, well, we can get you more oil. You just can‘t refine any more oil. That‘s not right.
I mean, the supply is about 85. The refining is about 85. It is where you are. Everything is in balance.
MATTHEWS: Let me run through some prices with you, the expert, average gasoline prices around the country right now, Chicago, $2.83. These are all regular unleaded. San Francisco, $2.81. New York City, $2.70. That‘s two dollars and 70 cents. And here in D.C., $2.69. In Austin, Texas, $2.48. And here‘s the gas range around the country, the price of gasoline. In Rome, it‘s $5.70. It‘s $5.70 in American dollars.
London, it‘s $5.60, Tokyo, $4.61. Brasilia—that‘s the capital of Brazil
And here‘s a funny little item here, Caracas, 12 cents. How does that work?
PICKENS: Well, it‘s subsidized.
MATTHEWS: They make it—oh.
And it is the same thing in China. But all those prices that actually oil goes to Rome or New York at the same price, but the price difference, whatever that was, $5 against $3, well, you‘re looking at taxes, is what it is.
MATTHEWS: Right. They believe in taxing gasoline really a lot in Europe to keep the consumption down.
But what happens, though, is, when you get into those $4 and $5 prices in foreign supply of gasoline, well, the car size changes. Plus, they don‘t drive as far as we do here.
The distances are much smaller. People drive in—they say you could drive right across England in the time a lot of people commute here, right?
PICKENS: That‘s right. You can sure drive across England faster than you can drive across Texas.
Well, we have a lot of people who work in this city, Washington, D.C. police officers, firemen, people like that, regular people. They‘re not the elite. They‘re regular people—drive from West Virginia. They drive from way out in Virginia. A lot of guys I know do a lot of driving. They can‘t change their habits, because they‘re not on joyrides. They‘re going to work in the morning. So, can they affect—they can‘t really affect their consumption rates. They have got to pay more, whatever it costs, right?
PICKENS: They—that‘s right. They‘re going to have...
MATTHEWS: So, who can adjust their consumption of gas to relieve the demand when the prices go high? Who can help prices come down?
PICKENS: Well, you don‘t want prices to come down, because, when you do, your demand will go up. And then you‘ll be back in the problem again. So, you really—I mean, it is sad to say, but you want prices to go up to kill demand.
MATTHEWS: When you mentioned that we will have something like 85 million barrels of oil produced at—and then you have demand for 87, right?
PICKENS: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Who fights over that last two million barrels?
PICKENS: Well, it‘s—the price is the one that is going to step up and pay for it.
There‘s some oil around in inventories. But that‘s going to be drawn down. I don‘t know. I really—I can‘t wait to see what happens here in the fourth quarter of this year.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about China, because I think about the amount of money that we borrow from China every year to balance our—to deal with our national debt, our federal budget deficit. All those dollars they got, all that power they have over us, can they just pay all they want for gas?
PICKENS: I don‘t think so. I mean, it is—they‘re rationing gasoline now in China. And so it is, you know...
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking, can they outbid us for gas and jam up the price around the world? I heard they‘re out buying all the available gasoline right now, the Chinese.
PICKENS: Could very well be the case. I don‘t know that. But it could be the case. I don‘t know, Chris.
This thing is—I promise you, there‘s going to be some very, very interesting shows in the next six months on this very subject.
PICKENS: Because we have seen fundamental changes. And for somebody to say that oil is going to go back to $30 a barrel, that‘s not even possible.
MATTHEWS: But you know how this country works. There‘s always somebody maybe on the left or a demagogue who says, oh, somebody is stealing all this money, or they‘re manipulating these prices and that there‘s lots out there. There‘s unlimited gasoline out there, living in oil. They‘re just screwing us.
Is that true?
PICKENS: No. No, but let me take you back to the—you remember the Arab embargo?
MATTHEWS: Sure. Seventy-three.
PICKENS: OK, ‘73. OK, we were importing 25 percent of our oil in the United States at that point. Now go back to the Gulf War. We were importing 42 percent. We‘re now importing 57 percent. And by 2010, we will be over 60 percent.
And so, there‘s no question. I mean, it just gets tighter and tighter and tighter, as far as supply is concerned.
MATTHEWS: You know, it is often said that we‘re fighting this war in Iraq, both wars, the one that President Bush Sr. fought and the current President Bush fought, to a large extent, for economic reasons, that, no matter what we say, it can be about democracy or concern about Israel or concern about spreading democracy or whatever, fighting terrorism.
In the end, are we fighting the war to protect the oil lanes, so that we can get that amount of—because we need it?
PICKENS: I don‘t think so. I don‘t think that...
MATTHEWS: Well, suppose you had a liberal government, a dovish government in the United States, that said, we are not going to fight any more wars in the Middle East. Enough of that. We‘re getting out of there militarily. Could we afford that economically, to just let the people over there call the shots?
PICKENS: I don‘t know. I mean, you‘re asking me a question, a geopolitical...
MATTHEWS: But isn‘t it the key question of our times? If you say we‘re more and more dependent on Middle East oil, do we have to fight for that Middle East oil as if it‘s in Texas, because we use it as if it were from Texas?
MATTHEWS: It is what we desperately need, the way we run our economy.
PICKENS: But the Middle East wants to sell the oil.
PICKENS: I mean, I think...
MATTHEWS: Right now they do. But wouldn‘t they rather—we had a guy here from Saudi Arabia the other night. I said, do you care whether you sell it to us or sell it to China? And, very smugly, he said, we‘re an oil-producing country.
PICKENS: Sure. He doesn‘t care.
What they do care about is price. And they already—I mean, they need the money.
PICKENS: I mean, the Saudis need the money, and for a lot of reasons.
Let‘s don‘t go into those.
But the point is, they‘re going to hold the price above $50. So, you are not going to see any price go below $50.
MATTHEWS: Christmastime, what are we paying for gasoline a gallon?
PICKENS: I don‘t know. I said $3.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thanksgiving.
PICKENS: You know, we‘re right on $3 now.
PICKENS: And I don‘t know what...
MATTHEWS: Up at Nantucket, by the way, it‘s already over $3 for...
PICKENS: Sure it is. And out at Santa Barbara, it‘s been over $3 for some time.
PICKENS: But the—I don‘t know. I mean, this thing is going to get wild, I think, in the next three—the next three or four months.
MATTHEWS: Is this making Texas oilmen richer, the squeeze?
PICKENS: Anybody that has oil is making money, no question. And...
MATTHEWS: OK. Is Halliburton making a ton of money off all this?
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.
Thank you very much, Boone Pickens, great guest to have, great booking.
Up next, he says a military intelligence unit identified Mohamed Atta as a potential al Qaeda operative back in 2000, a year before 9/11. we will talk to former Army intelligence officer Colonel Anthony Shaffer.
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MATTHEWS: Some people in military intelligence say they knew about al Qaeda threats way before 9/11, but could not share the info with the FBI. Who was holding them back?
When HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Two defense officers say that a military intelligence unit known as Able Danger identified Mohamed Atta and three other hijackers as potential al Qaeda threats more than a year before 9/11, but military lawyers prevented them from sharing this information with the FBI. Is the Pentagon to blame, then, for failing to prevent 9/11?
Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer was the first to come forward with his information. He served as the liaison officer between the Able Danger unit and the Defense Intelligence Agency. And Mark Zaid is his attorney.
Colonel, let me ask you this. In real simple terms, could 9/11 have been prevent by the information your unit had in its possession?
LT. COL. ANTHONY SHAFFER, FORMER ARMY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: There‘s no way to tell if that could have happened or not. But I do believe that, had we been able to pass the information to the FBI, it would have given us a fighting chance. That‘s the best I can describe it.
MATTHEWS: Tell me how you learned about Mohamed Atta.
SHAFFER: This information...
MATTHEWS: And when.
SHAFFER: We found out about Mohamed Atta by his links, essentially, to put in it simple layman‘s term, profiling, using open-source data, regarding the travel and association of certain Muslim men and certain radical clerics. And this was done through open Internet completely by J.D. Smith. He came forward today.
There‘s—he is now on the record talking about exactly how he did this using advanced data tools, data mining, purchasing of data off the Internet through brokers, and then using multiple analytical tools to refute or confirm links. Again, this was a six-month process to come up with this information.
MATTHEWS: What was it that identified him as a terrorist, though?
SHAFFER: Describing him as a—he was found to be directly linked to radical Muslim clerics.
MATTHEWS: But he had no rap sheet, did he?
SHAFFER: No, he did not. And that was one of the things that was—the beauties of this whole technology. We were able to find these guys and their affiliations and associations a year before 9/11. Nobody else seems to have found this information.
MATTHEWS: Is there a formula—because this sounds like “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise, the movie—where you can predict a crime is going to happen based upon information?
SHAFFER: That was one of the keys of the way...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe you can?
SHAFFER: They were using the criteria of the World Trade Center one bomber.
As you recall, in ‘93, the World Trade Center one—was bombed. They took like eight points of data out of—which was common to all those individuals, take that data then, bounce it off the larger database, looking for profiles which meet up with the original set. That‘s how we found the linkage. That, plus the association of Atta and these other individuals with the radical clerics who were traveling and against the—for better or for worse. The Muslim clerics were being used as command-and-control of that operation.
MATTHEWS: Again using the “Minority Report” parallel, if you know someone is going to commit a crime, why don‘t you tell law enforcement officials?
SHAFFER: We attempted to do that. And that‘s one of the issues...
MATTHEWS: How hard? How hard did you try?
SHAFFER: I can‘t tell you. We tried as—to the point of where we thought this was the most important thing. There was no...
MATTHEWS: What‘s to stop you from dropping the dime on Mohamed Atta if you think the guy looks suspicious, just going to the nearest phone, call up and say, here‘s a tip? This guy, Mohamed Atta, is a dangerous man. He fits the pattern, the profile, of a terrorist. And we‘re afraid he is going to strike.
SHAFFER: He wasn‘t the only one that we discovered...
MATTHEWS: How many were in that category?
SHAFFER: There were probably about eight total that we had suspicion of.
MATTHEWS: Well, Why not do eight people like that? That‘ where—that‘s not a big chunk of people.
SHAFFER: Because that was where the Able Danger operations officer approached me and said, we have these individuals the lawyers have told us we can‘t look at we have to do something about.
That‘s where I came in to it, because I had a relationship with the FBI running a similar operation. So, I tried to broker meetings between the Able Danger individuals in Tampa and the FBI. That‘s where it went wrong. That‘s where we were stopped from providing the information.
MATTHEWS: Mark, what law prevents your client from telling his counterparts at the FBI that there‘s a dangerous guy out there that might blow up some things?
MARK ZAID, ATTORNEY FOR ANTHONY SHAFFER: Well, apparently, the concern within the military, similar to what was seen with the Justice Department wall, was that the military could not conduct intelligence operations or gathering of information on U.S. citizens or even U.S. person, meaning individuals here in the United States, foreigners, but who were lawfully here, as most or some of the hijackers were.
MATTHEWS: Where did that law come from, or rule?
ZAID: I‘m not entirely clear on that.
MATTHEWS: I mean, why do we collect intelligence information if we‘re not going to use it?
ZAID: Well, that‘s a good question.
I mean, part of it may come back in 19th century with Posse Comitatus and the military is not allowed to do law enforcement operations.
MATTHEWS: I could give you a list of places to go buy Christmas trees, with the idea that you go buy a Christmas tree. Why would you collect data on locating bad guys if you are not going to pick them up?
ZAID: Well, that was the question.
And there was a division within the military as to what they can do and how long they can do it. And that‘s why the program was shut down. Most—a lot of these questions should be directed at the Army, as to why was the program shut down in early 2001, when it was producing the results that it did?
MATTHEWS: You‘re not the only one speaking out. Navy Captain Scott Philpott, is he saying the same thing you are?
SHAFFER: He has gone on the record backing up everything that‘s been said about him knowing about Atta and what we were doing regarding Able Danger, yes.
ZAID: It‘s not even Philpott.
We have now—there‘s been several have gone on the record. But having talked to other team members and who have also talked to other team members, there are now up to at least a dozen team members who are supportive...
MATTHEWS: Why are the two chairman of the 9/11 Commission denying the value of what you‘re saying?
SHAFFER: I think Richard Ben-Veniste said it the best the other day during an interview on CNBC on the Donny Deutsch show.
SHAFFER: When Donny Deutsch asked him, why is it you never checked out, as the commissioners, Colonel Shaffer‘s story? His answer was very telling. He said, we had no technology or ability to actually check on what the colonel was telling us. We had—“The technology to do so no longer exists”—unquote.
So, that was the key. The technology we used to get this information does not exist at the time they were doing the report, the 9/11 Commission research, nor does it exist now. So, that is the key. They couldn‘t verify what we were saying.
ZAID: Chris, the problem is, the Defense Department didn‘t give them the data that was necessary. And we now know that the Army destroyed a large amount of that data in 2001. And that‘s another question that needs to be asked. Why?
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
Nine-Eleven Commissioner Thomas Kean is one of those people that is denying the value of what you‘re saying right here.
SHAFFER: Well, I—sir, I can only tell you what I know and what I talked to the 9/11 Commission about. And how an offensive operation aimed at looking at al Qaeda two years in advance of 9/11 is somehow not historically relevant, I don‘t understand.
MATTHEWS: So, you knew the name Mohamed Atta? You knew the guy was dangerous?
SHAFFER: We knew that he was linked to radical Muslim clerics and he was of concern, by the fact that the lawyers told us we couldn‘t even do intelligence collection against him, yes.
MATTHEWS: I want to come back and talk more about this. I think everybody has got to figure out watching this show how we can pick people ahead of time, because I was stunned.
The day of 9/11, the day after, all of a sudden, within 24 hours, I see pictures in the newspapers of every guy who did it. Where did those pictures come from?
MATTHEWS: How did we know all that so fast? Usual suspects, obviously.
More with Anthony Shaffer and Mark Zaid when we return.
And a reminder: The political debate is 24/7 here at Hardblogger, our political blog Web site. Follow all the action on the hottest political stories each day. Just go to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
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MATTHEWS: We are back with Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer, who says that a military team had linked Mohamed Atta to an al Qaeda cell more than a year before 9/11. We are also joined by his lawyer, Mark Zaid.
Is the federal government—I mean, you are going to be asked this the rest of your life, my friend, Lieutenant Colonel. You‘re going to be asked the rest of your life, did we blow it?
SHAFFER: I think we did blow it.
I mean, any time you have information which is critical to any given military target and somehow it is not used properly, you have blown it. I mean, there‘s no—there‘s no way—there‘s no way too put too fine a point on it.
The question is now, how do we learn from this and what else did the 9/11 Commission miss? And how do we go back and try to find those other little misses of information? And one of the things I need to add here, Chris, is that, like you pointed out, the “Minority Report” paradigm here. These guys, these terrorists live in the real world. If you recall, the London bombing, the day that—weeks before the London bombing, there‘s a picture of these guys out on a white-water rafting trip together.
That—I swear, I believe in my heart of hearts, that was their final planning meeting. That means that they live in the real world. What we need to do is find out through the links who they associate with and how those links can be traced back to what they‘re doing. Unlike you and I, who have patterns in our life, they have a different pattern. And that pattern is detectable. And I think that‘s where we need to go with this.
MATTHEWS: so, you believe we can get enough basic hard facts on people that might be on a long list of—a watch list—to narrow down to those who have conducted themselves in a certain way that fits the pattern of people about to commit terrorism?
SHAFFER: Not even a watch list.
MATTHEWS: And we can do it?
SHAFFER: Not even a watch list. We‘re talking about, in some cases with the London bombers, citizens who were totally above board, looked perfectly normal.
SHAFFER: There‘s—but there was a pattern there.
MATTHEWS: I love this with this formula. Don‘t give it away, though.
MATTHEWS: Keep that formula to yourself.
MATTHEWS: Because they might figure it out and operate differently.
MATTHEWS: It sounds like good standard police work. Did you notice anything different?
MATTHEWS: People fit patterns. People go to neighborhoods they don‘t normally go to. Look for them as the killer.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.
What—just personally, when you started to see this grim looking picture of Mohamed Atta flashed all over the TV screen, all over the newspapers, having picked him up as one of your eight suspects, what did you think?
SHAFFER: I was shocked, just like, you know...
MATTHEWS: You might have said, we were right?
SHAFFER: We were going down the right path. And that was my concern.
And, as a matter of fact, my colleagues and I got together. As a matter of fact, one of my former investigators came forward recently and said, I remember you talking to me about this a week after 9/11.
SHAFFER: We all realized that we had these guys.
And then we started asking some questions to ourselves. Why was Able Danger, why was this whole technology piece turned off four months before the 9/11 attacks? In the spring of 2001, it was dismantled, all, completely...
MATTHEWS: You know what? It sounds like me watching the CIA leak case. I know all these people involved, all the suspects. And when their names start popping up in the reports, I go, yes, I figured that was one of them.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re much closer to a horror story, because you, the rest of your life, will know that you could have, couldn‘t you, have gone nuts when you saw Mohamed Atta‘s face?
MATTHEWS: And said, this guy is really dangerous. I don‘t care how many rules I break. I‘m going to stop him.
SHAFFER: We didn‘t know—Chris, in our defense, we did not know al Qaeda was such a—that level of threat before 9/11. We did not.
MATTHEWS: You didn‘t know they would knock—tried to knock down the World Trade Center in ‘93?
SHAFFER: We did. I‘m not saying we didn‘t know that.
MATTHEWS: And only came within a few cinder blocks of doing it?
SHAFFER: That‘s why Able Danger was created. And, again, look at the title, Able Danger. There was a knowledge that these guys were dangerous. The Cole Attack happened after Able Danger started.
Quick, just to finish up , because everybody is curious about this.
MATTHEWS: This is an iconic event in our history.
Of those eight people that you fingered as possible dangers based on a pattern of behaviors...
MATTHEWS: ... set behaviors that you‘ve identified as indicative of what‘s coming in this guy, how many of them were involved, three?
SHAFFER: There was a total of four, by my recollection.
MATTHEWS: So, you had four out of eight.
SHAFFER: That was—we had four of the group.
MATTHEWS: That‘s batting .500.
SHAFFER: And we believe that, had that information—the fact that
these guys were linked to al Qaeda leadership, we think that information
may have been useful to the FBI
MATTHEWS: You think, if you had had a perfect relations with the FBI
· tell me the law here, Mark. If the colonel had called up the FBI or his
· through the right channels, pick up these guys. These guys are dangerous. We have got a set of information about them that says these guys are about to pull something big. Would the law have been able to pick them up?
ZAID: My understanding of the preclusion that the military had, it would have been problematic from a law enforcement standpoint. Also understand...
MATTHEWS: There‘s no probable cause. There‘s no reason to believe...
ZAID: They did not have that type of data.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t use prior restraint in the law?
ZAID: They only had links. They had associations that this person was hanging out with this person, was shopping at this place, was attending this mosque, this church, whatever.
ZAID: They only had that type of links, which, in these type of operations, as we now know publicly from how al Qaeda operated, that was how they conducted their planning.
Now, the real grave concern is, they identified, OK, three or four of them. What happened to the other people on the list? Just because they weren‘t participating in 9/11, are they planning something now? If they identified 50 percent of them at that time, where is the data to look at these people on the list now?
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Colonel.
Thank you, Mark Zaid.
Join us again on Monday night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. We will talk to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on how the Republicans are preparing to support Judge Roberts during his confirmation hearings, also about Trent‘s new book. Also, next week, comedian and TV host Bill Maher.
Up next, “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN,” hosted tonight by my friend Chris Jansing, and more on the damage left by Hurricane Katrina.
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