Skip to main content

tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  August 3, 2010 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT

6:00 pm
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. crews pumped drilling mud into b.p.'s oil well today, taking the final step toward plugging it for good. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. on the newshour tonight, joel achenbach of the "washington post" updates today's so-called "static kill" operation, the beginning of the end of what is now officially the largest accidental spill ever. >> woodruff: then, we talk to federal judge reggie walton and former drug enforcement administration chief asa hutchinson about a new law narrowing the gap between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenders. >> ifill: kylie morris of independent television news has the latest on the tens of
6:01 pm
thousands of pakistanis in urgent need of food and medical aid after days of deadly flooding. >> woodruff: and margaret warner talks to former senator slade gorton and former c.i.a. director john mclaughlin about congressional oversight of the nation's massive intelligence community. that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
6:02 pm
and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: this was a critical day in the summer of the spill in the gulf of mexico. the moment finally arrived for b.p. engineers to try shutting down the source of the oil, once and for all.
6:03 pm
crews prepared for much of the day before beginning the operation to seal the run-away well permanently. the procedure is called static kill. it will pump heavy drilling mud through the temporary cap that has held the oil back since last month. the mud is three times denser than oil. and should force the petroleum back down the well. then cement will be injected to ensure a final seal. the entire process will take between 33 and 61 hours, if all goes as planned. a similar procedure called top kill failed around memorial day because the pressure from the well at that time was too great. officials say the chances of success are far better now with the cap keeping the well under control. in houston today, national incident commandered that allen had a guardedly optimistic take. >> this is a really positive step forward.
6:04 pm
it will be good news in a time where there hasn't been a lot of good news but i don't think it should be cause for premature celebration. >> woodruff: instead allen said the ultimate resolution will come when a relief well intersects and further seals the blown-out well in what's called a bottom kill. that could come next week. b.p. executives said yesterday that procedure may not even be necessary if the static kill works. but allen pointedly overrode that view today. >> i've always said the relief wells are final answer. i've talked with senior b.p. leadership in the last 24 hours including bob dudley and the team that is here working on it. there is no daylight between us. this will not be done until the relief wells are down. that's from the national incident commander. >> but did b.p. say.... >> that is understood by everybody. >> woodruff: in the meantime a federal task force of scientists issued a new estimate that more than 200 million gallons of oil flowed into the gulf from april 20 to mid july.
6:05 pm
that would make it the largest oil spill in history. under the clean water act, b.p. might be liable to pay anywhere from $5.4 billion to as much as $21 billion. if the company is cited for gross negligence or willful ms. conduct. by some estimates , 33 million gallons of the total spill were collected or burned off which would lower the fine. as for the people of the gulf, 25,000 square miles of federal fishing areas have reopened so far. about a third of what was closed. the reaction has been mixed among fishermen who make their living on the water. >> they will open up more areas for shrimping that they'll be able to bring more shrimp in which will help the supply in the market as well. >> nobody is talking about the dispersants. you can see the oil but you can't see dispersants so people are going to be hesitant about buying the seafood. >> woodruff: but allen said
6:06 pm
today that extensive testing ensures the safety of any ocean bounty. >> there are three general conditions that need to be met to reopen the fisheries. number one there has to be a certain amount of time where there has been no oil detected in the water. second, two tests have to be done on the fish that are captured. one is a sense ory tests. these are people who can understand whether there are hydro carbons in the samples. >> woodruff: but with so many out of work for so long reopening fishing grounds alone will not be enough. b.p. announced today a new damage claims process will speed up payment to business people who are suffering. there was other >> woodruff: there was other fallout from the spill. senate majority leader harry reid announced that he did not have enough votes to pass a scaled-back bill connected with the disaster. the bill would have lifted an oil spill liability cap, created tougher drilling standards, and included a few modest energy measures. but most of tonight's attention focused on efforts to kill the well.
6:07 pm
and for more, we're joined again by the "washington post's" joel achenbach. joel, thank you for being with us again. >> great to be here. >> woodruff: so this really could be the beginningate of the end of this well? >> it could be. is is this going to be the silver bullet that finally ends this thing? i certainly hope so, but i just got off the phone with energy secretary steve chew and one of his top scientists tom hunter. what they made clear is that although this is very promising so far-- i mean, the early signs, the early testing on this well, with this procedure, were exactly what they wanted to see -- it may be that this has kind of a muddy ending. in other words, the static kill may work as, they hope it will. but they're going to want to go in at the bottom and send cement in at the bottom almost no matter what. as far as the report, you know, in the next 48 hours, this thing is over. i don't think it's going to be
6:08 pm
that clean of a kill. >> woodruff: help us understand that because, you know, we've heard all these explanations about how they're putting this drilling mud in. we just showed a graphic showing how that works. why isn't that enough to secure this well? >> well, i think the well in reality is not as clean and perfect and immaculate as it is on those graphs and in those diagrams. because you see in the animation, you see the mud going down and then maybe it will force all the oil back down into the rock reservoir. then you could follow the mud with a cement plug. the cement goes down and will cement the well. the problem is that they don't really know where the hydro carbons are flowing. i mean this is actually, you know, it's a pipe within a pipe. that second pipe is in a hole. there's multiple avenues where you can potentially have this stuff coming up. you know, this is, i don't know, two-and-a-half mile long well. 13 something feet.
6:09 pm
so it may not all go just as perfectly as it seems to work in those diagrams. >> woodruff: are you saying there still could be leaks in there? >> well, what could happen is you could not only... not only could you just sort of partially kill the well or control the pressure to a certain degree, but what i was told today by dr. chu was that this is sort of like a dynamic entity, this well. so you send the mud down. it's hot down there. the mud can change form. the well can actually start to kind of reassert itself. chu made an interesting sort of ... painted a picture of the hydro carbons are finger their way through the mud and try to start going up the well again. based on what they told us this afternoon , i think that even though this is going really well so far with just
6:10 pm
the initial sign, almost certainly they are going to have to go in with the relief well at the bottom and give it the sort of upper-cut punch from below to really end this thing conclusively. >> woodruff: do they still think that will end it? if they're now sounding unsure about how final this is, how certain are they that that is going to work? >> well, i mean, this has had a lot of surprises all along. this whole disaster. but they're a lot more confident now than they were just a couple of weeks ago. i think when i was on this program a couple weeks ago we didn't know what was going to happen when they sealed the well, when they shut it down. it turned out the well seems to have integrity. it didn't go kablooey out the sides or cause new leaks from the sea floor. it seemed to be able just to hold there at about 7,000 pounds per square inch. so they're feeling more confident in general. these tests today,
6:11 pm
they sent down some heavy oil, heavier than the oil that is coming up the pipe, and that seemed to go in just as they wanted it to go. and then late this afternoon they're just starting to send in the heavy mud. i do think that they believe the relief well is going to work. now, the other issue, of course, is the weather. if you have a hurricane, you can't just ride it out with these big drilling rigs. you have to move the rig away to calmer waters. if you have a big storm blow in the gulf in august, which happens almost, you know, like clock work, that could delay it into september. but, you know, right now things are going pretty much as they're hoping it would go. >> woodruff: joel, let me ask you about the new information today about the size of the spill. they're saying now over 200 million gallons. put that in some context for us in terms of size. it's hard to imagine.
6:12 pm
>> it's 18.5 exxon valdez es. the largest spill, off-shore spill was this hitchcock spill, 138 million gallons in 1979. this is over 200 million gallons. at its early, you know, peak this well was gushing at 62,000 barrels of oil a day. 42 gallon per barrel. so that is at the very, very high upper end of what the estimates were. in fact it's 12 times what the estimate was for many weeks early in this crisis. b.p. and the government said 5,000 barrels a day. no, it was more like 62. so i guess the bad news is this was bigger. it was worse than most people thought in terms of the volume of oil. now, the mystery is where did all the oil go? as we've seen, some of the
6:13 pm
environmental impacts have not been as bad as people had feared. i mean there's a lot of apocalyptic talk about this is going to kill the gulf of mexico. we talked about the oil getting in the loop current, going around florida, hitting the outer banks of north carolina. that didn't happen. a lot ofity vap yated. a lot of it has been perhaps eaten by microbes. some of it went into the marshes on the beaches. there's a question of is a lot of it suspended in the water column still out there unaccounted for? >> woodruff: they're still trying to figure out the answers to those questions. we know the scientists are working on that. joel from the "washington post," thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: still to come >> ifill: still to come on the newshour, equalizing sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenders; providing help for flood-ravaged pakistan; and america's complex intelligence operations. but first, the other news of the day. here's kwame holman in our newsroom. >> holman: mass shootings erupted today in two parts of the country. a gunman in manchester, connecticut, killed eight people and then himself at a beer
6:14 pm
distribution facility. police and ambulances rushed to the scene after the shooting began during a shift change. investigators said the gunman was a driver who'd been asked to resign. hours earlier in indianapolis, a masked man opened fire at a birthday party with an assault- style rifle. he killed two people and wounded six before fleeing. some of the wildfires in western russia are burning out of control. that word came today from the country's top emergency official. he appealed for more manpower. 10,000 firefighters already are battling fires in more than a dozen western provinces. at least 40 people have been killed and nearly 2,000 homes destroyed. in southern iraq, a car bomb tore through an outdoor market, killing at least 15 people and wounding 60. and attackers in baghdad killed five iraqi soldiers and left an al qaeda flag behind. it's the second such incident in less than a week. in afghanistan, insurgents tried
6:15 pm
and failed to storm the kandahar air field, nato's largest base in the south. >> there were two attacks. and then five suicide bombers. (inaudible) we are now cleaning up after the attack. >> holman: the taliban claimed responsibliity for the attack. and nato reported one of its soldiers was killed in eastern afghanistan. his nationality was not given. a fierce gun battle broke out between lebanese and israeli troops along their border. at least four people were killed in the worst violence there since the 2006 war between israel and hezbollah militants. today's incident lasted for several hours after israeli soldiers cut down a tree along the fence dividing the two countries. each side blamed the other for starting the trouble. the u.s. senate began debate today on the confirmation of elena kagan to the supreme court. nearly all democrats and a
6:16 pm
handful of republicans are expected to vote to confirm later this week. supporters and opponents laid out sharply different views of kagan, who's currently u.s. solicitor general. >> solicitor general kagan reflected an understanding of the judicial role, a traditional view of deference to congress and judicial precedent. hers were mainstream views. she indicated she would not be the kind of justice who would substitute her personal preferences and overrule congressional efforts to design to protect hard work in america pursuant to our constitutional role. >> this is not a judge committed to restraint. objectivity but believes in the power of judges to expand and advance the law and visions of what the judge may think is best for america. she would be an activist, a liberal, progressive politically minded judge who will not be happy simply to decide cases but will seek to
6:17 pm
advance her causes. >> holman: if confirmed, kagan will succeed justice john paul stevens, who retired earlier this year. a commission in new york city cleared the way for an islamic center and mosque today, a move that drew national attention. the complex would be two blocks from ground zero, site of the 9/11 terror attacks. opponents jeered the vote and said it insults the memory of those killed by muslim extremists. >> it's a horrible betrayal of our 3,000 victims and our wonderful policemen and firemen who gave their lives willingly. they should be all about our heroes , our victims and our heroes not about lifting up and glorifying islam. >> holman: the anti-defamation league, a leading jewish rights group, also has opposed the plan. and several top republicans, including sarah palin and newt gingrich, have sharply criticized it as well. but new york mayor michael bloomberg said the city should not "cave to popular sentiment."
6:18 pm
>> let us not forget that muslims are among those murdered on 9/11 and our muslim neighbors grieved with us as new yorkers and as americans. we would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat muslims different lie than anyone else. >> holman: the group that owns the site gave no indication of when work on the islamic center and mosque might begin. wall street pulled back a bit after consumer spending and housing figures came in weaker than expected. the dow jones industrial average lost 38 points to close at 10,636. the nasdaq fell more than 11 points to close at 2283. also today, automakers reported mixed results for july. g.m. and chrysler sales made slight gains, while ford's numbers were flat. sales fell at toyota and honda, but nissan shot up 15%. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: president obama signed a new law at the white house today that will close the long- disputed gap in federal sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine.
6:19 pm
since 1986, defendants caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine have gotten the same punishment-- five years in prison-- as defendants convicted of possessing only five grams of crack cocaine. that's a sentencing ratio of 100-1. the new law reduces that dramatic disparity, cutting the ratio to about 18-1. and for the first time in 40 years, congress is rolling back a mandatory minimum sentence already on the books. the law won rare bipartisan support. here to discuss its implications are former arkansas congressman asa hutchinson, who served as the head of the drug enforcement administration under president george w. bush. and judge reggie walton, who sits on the u.s. district court bench for washington, d.c. welcome to you both. >> thank you. >> ifill: what was the original reason, i'll start with you judge walton, what was the original reason for this disparity becoming law? >> well, at the time it became law, clearly crack cocaine was having a devastating impact on
6:20 pm
many parts of our country especially many of our inner- city communities. there was, in fact, a lot of violence associated with crack cocaine because it was an effort on the part of various drug organizations and individuals to garner the market in those particular locations. as a result of that, there was a lot of violence. also there was a misperception that crack cocaine was something different chemically than what powder cocaine was and it was because primarily of those two factors that we ended up with the disparity that we have. >> ifill: up remember this, asay hutchinson, i'm sure you do too, we heard lots of talk of crack babies and other terms which gave crack this horrible kind of ... this horrible idea, this idea that it was far more dangerous than heroin, far more dangerous than anything on the market. why was that so pervasive? >> well, it was a reaction. first of all there were serious problems with crack invading communities and the violence that was associated with it. but we were not able to
6:21 pm
distinguish those cases that had violence versus those cases that someone was just using crack and similar to someone else using powder cocaine. a lot of the turmoil and concern was created by the death of lynn bias, former maryland basketball player , that caused congress to enact this tough mandatory penalty. so this is one of those good occasions in congress where you can actually do something to restore some fairness in the system. >> ifill: why did the attitudes begin to shift on this? >> i think a lot of it was education. i remember when i was in congress 14 years ago ed advocating for reducing this disparity. many of my colleagues did not want to sign on to this because they have didn't want to be perceived as being weak on crime. they didn't want to reduce the penalties for cocaine. and so it had to take a lot of very difficult stories to educate them as well as the
6:22 pm
science catching up and the law enforcement community expressing we need to change this for fairness. >> ifill: judge walton is someone who had to hand out these kinds of sentences. why wasn't the solution to increase the powder or the penalty for possessing powder cocaine rarn decreasing the penalty for crack cocaine. >> there were some who advocated that. however, i think the sentences that we are meting out in these circumstances are very stiff sentences. we have an overwhelming number of people in our prison system now who clearly don't need to exacerbate that problem by increasing the population. i think to a large degree, it's the certainty of punishment in these types of situations that is more important than the severity of punishment. >> ifill: i want to give you numbers you know well. 80% of crack offenders are african-american and they're 20 mrs more likely to be sentenced. why this racial disparity? >> it wasn't intentional. i mean clearly there's a
6:23 pm
socioeconomic component to why crack cocaine is used and trafficked in minority communities to a greater extent. that's because crack cocaine is a lot cheaper than powder cocaine. therefore a lot more accessible to people who don't have significant financial resources. as a result of that, you have a large number of poor people to a greater extent who are using crack as compared to powder. >> ifill: we should probably describe crack is actually a rock-like substance which comes from cooking it with baking soda. so it actually was a different substance but the same major chemical component. big drug traffickers weren't getting caught up in this. >> i think that's another benefit that you can concentrate your resources, federal resources on serious drug trafficking organizations and those that are significant dealers. if you're looking at five grams of cocaine, it could be somebody going out for a weekend party. five grams will last you for a weekend.
6:24 pm
now it's been increased substantially so you're actually going to be dealing with those that are more major traffickers or can lead to those traffic organizations. so it's a good use of resources. i think very important though, this is not a crime initiative. what we can do now-- and the judge will be able to do it-- is whenever you have characteristics of violence associated with drug trafficking, you can still enhance their penalties. so if it's violence associated with it, you're going to have tougher penalties. that's what we have to concentrate our efforts on. >> ifill: does it change your job? >> it does. it makes it easier because to be very candid, it was very difficult to mete out some of the sentences that we had to when you felt that some of those sentences were inappropriate. so, yes, it does make my job somewhat easier. but i do want to emphasize that, you know, crack cocaine is still a major problem in our society. even though it's the same chemical substance, because of the way it's used, it is more addictive than powder cocaine. so it does have a significant
6:25 pm
impact. >> ifill: speaking of impact, how many people would be affected by this change in the law? it's not retroactive. people who are currently in jail would not be affected. >> it's my understanding that it's a statistic of about 4,000 people it would impact. the judge might correct that. it's interesting on the retroactive aspect of it, i think the sentencing commission did recommend that at one point in terms of fairness. but that was not part of the law. it was silent on that point so it could be that the sentencing commission can still address that down the road. >> ifill: is that your understanding as well? >> according to the sentencing commission, it will be about 3,000 defendants per year who would be impacted. on average, the sentences would be about 27 months shorter than otherwise would have been the case under the old law. >> ifill: what is it about this particular legislation which we had a unanimous vote in the senate, a vote in the house, the president signed it with very little fan fare and
6:26 pm
no outcries as far as i could tell. what is it about this issue? >> well, people came together and realized it was the right thing to do. it's really the best of congress whenever they can forge a bipartisan compromise on an issue of fairness. senator durbin, of course, on the republican side. senator sessions who i served with as united states attorney and federal prosecutor. he stood out and said we ought to do this. it's the right thing. when they forged that compromise, leaders and others in the party said we'll support you on this. it was good to see that bipartisan compromise effort and passing this legislation. >> ifill: you say compromise. that's the reason why i assume this disparity wasn't erased completely. 18-to-1 disparity but not 1-to- 1. >> there were others who were advocating that it should be one to one. the court system has never taken a position on what the disparity should be, if any.
6:27 pm
we did believe, however, that the 100 to 1 was obviously out of kilter and needed to be addressed. but i think as indicated, you know, it's a hot button issue because nobody wants to be perceived as being lenient on crime. i would have never taken up this cause on behalf of the court system if i thought that that's what it was because anybody who knows me knows i'm not lenient when it comes to crime and punishment. >> ifill: this has been talked about at least since ronald reagan was president. we're just getting it done today. what took so long? >> well, justice moves very slowly but it a fine result in this case. it has a great impact on people's lives out there. i hope that not only the fairness is right for individuals but for a system that has to trust the cooperation of people, of individuals and jurors that have to have confidence in the fairness, law enforcement understands the importance of this. as former head of the d.e.a., i think this will in the end
6:28 pm
help us to concentrate our resources, go off the serious traffickers and hopefully build confidence in the minority communities again. >> ifill: thank you both very much. >> thank you for having me. >> thank you. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour, the crisis in flood-ravaged pakistan. the newshour, the crisis in flood-ravaged pakistan; and congressional ov
6:29 pm
6:30 pm
6:31 pm
6:32 pm
6:33 pm
>> woodruff: next, the floods in pakistan, which started their destructive path in the north, but are now moving south. officials say 1,500 people have died and 1.8 million are in need of food. we have a report narrated by kylie morris of independent television news. >> reporter: it's the monsoon of a generation. villages across pakistan are needy knee-deep in gushing
6:34 pm
water and the rains keep falling swelling the country's three great rivers already at breaking point. only a few bridges have withstood the flood in the northwest. here, the rain stops only long enough to catch your breath. clean off. put up a tent. spread out your belongings. then it starts again. for the 700,000 people thought to have lost their homes in this district alone there's little relief. this man says 700 people died when his refugee camp was swept away. his children have been hungry and thirsty for three days. there's widespread complaints of government inaction but officials say they're doing what they can despite swamped roads, washed-out bridges and destroyed communication lines. >> our major priority is to save people's lives. all our efforts are concentrated on that. so we're using boats and helicopters to rescue people. >> reporter: there are promises of more help.
6:35 pm
the u.s. has diverted six more helicopters from their operations in afghanistan. it's the only way to reach people still stranded by the high water. washington has also extended a supporting hand promising ten million dollars in aid and the u.k. ten million pounds. but in the worst affected areas the chief minister already says they'll need more because the losses and damages are so huge. in pakistan, any vacuum in providing relief is potentially dangerous. the military has fought a costly battle with islamic militants in the northwest, fighting to clear the pakistani taliban from its stronghold. but in this town today, volunteers on the ground . supposedly a banned hard-line religious group is flying its banner openly collecting donations for its charitable work. we were told that the clinic itself distributing medicines to stranded survivors is run by a group also linked to the former group.
6:36 pm
aid comes in political colors. survivors queued all day for their bag-american-provided flour. >> our house is collapsed due to the flood and america is helping us at this time. there are no walls left on our house. we are sitting under the sky at the mercy of god. they've done a good job and provided a kindness. >> reporter: but even as kindness reaches some in the northwest, the flood waters swept downriver into the punjab heartlands and it keeps on raining. there are small emergencies all over the country. these villages have to relocate because a nearby dam is nearing breaking point. >> we have to evacuate. the water level is rising. we're all stuck here. the road ahead is blocked. >> reporter: tonight there's pressure on pakistan's government and its president to unblock the way ahead for the relief effort. the only certainty is the need. the question still, how it can
6:37 pm
be met. >> ifill: next, we begin a look at key issues facing the u.s. intelligence community, first raised in the "washington post" series "top secret america." those stories detailed the dramatic expansion of the intelligence community since 9/11. tonight, margaret warner examines one piece of that intelligence puzzle: congressional oversight. >> we are the largest, most capable intelligence enterprise on the planet. >> warner: that was the top intelligence official testing testifying two weeks ago as you sought confirmation to become the country's fourth director of national intelligence. his hearing took place the week the "washington post" ran a series on the massive growth in the u.s. intelligence counterterrorism community since 9/11. the post found an enterprise of more than a thousand
6:38 pm
agencies and nearly 2,000 private contractors. so unwieldly and secretive that no one really knows how big it is or how effective. committee chairman dianne feinstein seemed to agree with the gist of that assessment. >> intelligence growth has not always led to improved performance. growth in the size and number of agencies, offices, task forces, and centers has also challenged the ability of former directors of national intelligence to truly manage the community. >> warner: but claper, a retired air force lieutenant general rejected the post's conclusions. >> i didn't agree with some of that. i think there was some shrillness to it that i don't subscribe to. that's not to say that there aren't inefficiencies and there aren't things that we can improve. >> warner: the irony is that
6:39 pm
claper was appearing before just one of the more than 100 congressional committees and sub committees with an oversight role over the agencies waging the nation's battle with terrorism. from the c.i.a. and defense intelligence agency to the f.b.i. and the department of homeland security, one of the 9/11 commissions' key recommendations was to strengthen and streamline congressional oversight of those agencies. but that never happened according to philip zelikow, former executive director of the 9/11 commission. >> frankly, the congress did not enact the full recommendation the report had even for the executive branch because the turf battles that we talked about in the executive branch are mirrored in the congress. but that's not all. the structures that control all this money aren't just structures in the executive branch. they're structures in the congress. the congress didn't change its structure at all. >> warner: in short, congress is part of the problems, he says. >> all these entities sprawling around.
6:40 pm
the reason they exist, the reason they keep getting money is because we have a network of supporters, many of them in the congress. >> warner: meanwhile on capitol hill, claper's confirmation is being held up by three senators over the administration's failure to turn over documents on other issues. what role does congress play in the need for intelligence reform? for that, we turn to john mcclaughlin, who held the top two spots at the c.i.a., deputy director and then acting director. he now teaches at johns hopkins' school of advanced international studies. and slade gorton, a former senator from washington state and a member of the 9/11 commission. he now practices law in seattle. welcome to you both. senator gorton, i will go directly to you. is phil zelikow right? is congress part of the problem when it comes to inefficiencies and turf battles that we see among all
6:41 pm
these different agencies? our whole intelligence and anti-terrorism apparatus? >> philip is if anything a little bit on the mild side. the numbers we had at the time the 9/11 commission met was that there were 88 congressional committees and sub committees that had something to do with intelligence oversight. we thought they would reduce it to 79. you've just told us it's actually gone up to 100. i can say myself, i served a little bit more than two years on the senate intelligence committee, and i quit because it was worthless. we didn't have any real authority over those intelligence agencies. they didn't pay a lot of attention to us. in fact i hardly ever heard anything reported even in a secret meeting that i didn't read in the "washington post" within 48 hours. it seemed to me to be a waste of time. if anything, i think it's gotten worse since. >> warner: how about you, john mclaughlin, from sitting as an agency head, how did oversight look to you? >> well, the first thing i
6:42 pm
would say is it's very important that we have good oversight. i want to make clear that's a goal and an objective i support. oversight worked pretty well in the 1980s. sometime in the 1990s it began to mirror the rest of congress, mirror the way other committees worked. it caught the spirit of partisan politics that we see elsewhere in the congress. the committees discovered television. the partisan spirit that infected them has, for example, i think, prevented them now for the fifth year unless they make a breakthrough for the fifth year in coming to an agreement on a bill authorizing intelligence budget. the importance of that is that's one of their major powers. by not authorizing the budget they really give up a lot of their control because intelligence agencies aren't dumb. they go right to the apropose rateors. they go to committees that appropriate the money. >> warner: senator gorton, one of the key recommendations of your commission was the
6:43 pm
appointment of this director of national intelligence. now the congress did do that. do you ... but now there are all all these questions about whether they have enough authority. do you think congress bears a role in that? >> congress created the title but congress did not follow the recommendations of the 9/11 commission with respect to authority. we wanted one person in charge of the intelligence agencies of the united states. that dni with very real authority over budget and with very real authority over personnel. that was largely gutted. i'm afraid that to a certain extent at least what we created in the actual dni was simply another layer of bureaucracy with too many people and too little in the way of authority. in that respect of course it reflects the way the congress operates itself. >> warner: why did that happen? why didn't they give the dni real heft? >> the debate took place for a
6:44 pm
period of time right after the 2004 election. the senate, i may say, did authorize the creation of the dni with pretty much the authority that the 9/11 commission asked for. it was undercut in the house by, i think the then chairman of the house armed services committee. remember, the armed services get about three quarters of all of the intelligence money. the defense department, even under george bush and under obama as well , fought losing the authority it had. the house listened to that argument. and the house undercut the authority of the dni. >> warner: is that part of the problem? i saw you nodding your head both when phil zelikow was speaking and senator gorton which is every agency, sub agency has its champions on the hill. the jealously guarded budget and its prerogatives. >> that's right. the senator is correct in saying when this office was created the fights over its authorities really limited the
6:45 pm
authority of the office . in some ways this can be an authority of office that can be well run. i have a feeling jim claper may do that. one of the problems is that because this person doesn't head a major agency as the predecessor of the director of central intelligence did, he has a little trouble or she has a little trouble establishing that kind of authority that you have heading a large institution. >> warner: let me ask you another question. what is it like to be an agency head. tim roemer who was a member of the 9/11 commission spoke recently. he said it's absolutely absurd to have now the department of homeland security technically has to respond to 88 or 90 different congressional sub committees or committees when he said, quote, we're supposed to be fighting al qaeda. how much of a distraction and a drain on actually the productive capacity of an agency is it to be constantly having to respond to the hill? >> well, that's the extreme case. homeland security.
6:46 pm
in fact i think there aren't a number of committees that overlook the c.i.a. and the national security agency and so forth is not excessive. there really are two main ones and then two appropriations committees. that's not a lot of the homeland security is another story. the real problem is that this relationship doesn't work very well. there's too much... they mirror the other committees too much. when these committees were created they were created with the idea they would be different. they would see all of the information in return for a certain amount of discretion and honest criticism. they have too many open hearings. there are too many press releases. >> warner: all for public consumption. >> all for public consumption. i say all of that in the context of my strong belief that oversight is very important. this is one of the few things that connects this very arcane business to the american public. >> warner: let me ask senator gorton, do you agree with that critique that there's too much sort of public posturing but not enough real oversight? >> i do agree.
6:47 pm
you can have a little bit of sympathy with some of the members as this is a thankless task. if it's done behind closed doors, it takes a great deal of time. it takes time and effort away from other matters. it requires a real dedication. i think probably a system in which many of the members come from districts or states in which they aren't threatened for re-election to have it done right. it's a prestige appointment. all too many members use that prestige appointment to try to aggrandize themselves politically and not really do the work that's necessary to provide a full oversight. >> in fairness to the congress i would just say that i agree with the senator's point but in fairness to the congress intelligence did become more controversial after 9/11 and after iraq. it's not as though this just happened for no reason. but it needs to be reined in. >> warner: and.... >> there was another time, of course, when it was very controversial.
6:48 pm
that was back in the 1970s with the end of vietnam and the church commission. i'm not sure that helped the intelligence agencies much either. >> warner: senator gorton, lee hamilton who was co-chair of the 9/11 commission said in a speech last year that paradoxically the more committees you have involved in something, the less robust the oversight is. do you agree with that? >> that's probably true. again i agree with the former director there. that the concentration at least on the important agencies ought to be and probably still is in the appropriations committee and in the authorizing committee. but as he pointed out when the authorizing committee s and the congress don't work, don't pass authorizing bills it really comes down to a handful of people. while i was there in the senate, it was basically senator stevens and senator inouye because they controlled the money. they did operate responsibly. they operated in secret. but the rest of us really
6:49 pm
didn't know what they were doing. >> warner: very brief final word from both of you as long- time washington hands, what would it take to get congress to actually reform its structure when it involves giving up power? >> i think it takes seriousness of purpose. it takes your best members of congress, your most serious members of congress. it takes a great deal of disdiscretion. tass senator pointed out i think it takes a certain amount of sacrifice in terms of the political benefits that may or may not come to you from being on these committees. >> warner: senator gorton after the christmas day bomber failure or almost success, congress held hearings on executive branch failures but nothing about itself. do you think anything will prompt congress to do this? >> (sighing) i'm afraid it may only be another disaster because as the director pointed out, it takes a great deal of sacrifice not just in time but it takes the willingness on the part of some members of congress to say, let's concentrate this. we'll give up a little tiny
6:50 pm
bit of our own authority so that the body overall can do a better job. >> warner: former senator slade gorton, former acting c.i.a. director john mclaughlin, thank you both. >> ifill: in >> ifill: in our next segment, we'll look at the role independent contractors play in intelligence gathering. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day. b.p. began its static kill operation in the gulf, the attempt to kill that blown well for good by filling it with mud and cement. a gunman killed eight people and then himself at his workplace in connecticut. the death toll from flooding in pakistan topped 1,500. and the u.s. senate began debating the confirmation of elena kagan to the supreme court. the newshour is always online. kwame holman, in our newsroom, previews what's there. kwame? >> holman: on the rundown, special correspondent kira kay updates the situation in rwanda, where presidential elections are set for next week. we have a post on the political unrest and mayan mysteries of honduras insights on the situation in afghanistan from
6:51 pm
our partners at global post. plus, how "rock the vote" is mobilizing young people for this year's midterm elections. all that and more is on our web site, judy? >> woodruff: and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, we'll look at new orleans, five years after hurricane katrina. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
6:52 pm
and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh
6:53 pm
6:54 pm
6:55 pm
6:56 pm
6:57 pm
6:58 pm
6:59 pm


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on