I peek in on Hardball from time to time in spite of the fact that Chris Matthews is an ass. Yesterday Kristin Breitweiser, widowed on 9/11, was on with Richard Ben Viniste, Joe Biden, and Michael Isikoff, among others. She reminded me of why I got into blogging to begin with. Crooks and Liars has a video. I think it’s important everyone hear what she had to say, so I’m posting just her part of the programs out of the transcript.
This is from the 5 o’clock EST program:
MATTHEWS: Let’s go right now to a wife of one of the people who was killed on 9/11 by the kind of terrorism that is being prosecuted and apparently going to be punished for a long time in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui. Kristin Breitweiser. Kristen, thank you for joining us. I’m anxious to hear your reaction to the verdict.
KRISTIN BREITWEISER, 9/11 WIDOW: Obviously I’m grateful to the jury for the work that they did. As a lawyer, I have to respectfully disagree with former mayor Giuliani. I happen to think that the case against Moussaoui was not that strong and I think that the jury is probably appropriate in the way that they came down with the case.
I think that we have other people in our own custody that certainly knew more than Moussaoui, namely Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, Tawfiq bin Atash and Ramsey Binalshibh. And I think that they had a more direct connection to 9/11 and more appropriately should be being prosecuted by our Justice Department more so than Moussaoui, who was in jail on the day of 9/11.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think that’s the case?
BREITWEISER: You know, obviously I’m not stupid. I understand that there are much talk or rumor that we have tortured them or are unable to prosecute them. I think that needs to be debated amongst the American people. If we are going to say that we successfully prosecute terrorists, then we should actually do that.
With the case of Moussaoui I hope it motivates our government to prosecute those people that we have in our custody that certainly had a more direct connection than Moussaoui did. And I hope it sends a message that in some cases torture is going to bar our ability to hold people accountable.
Matthews talks to Moussaoui ‘s defense attorney for awhile, and then brings in Senator Joe Biden for a bit before he goes back to Breitweiser
MATTHEWS: OK, hold on Senator, if you don’t mind. I know you’ve agreed to stick around just for a minute.
I want to go back to one of the well-known victims of the people–of the person killed, a person killed on 9/11 itself at the World Trade Center, that’s Kristin Breitweiser. Do you have a comment on what you’ve been just listening to, Kristin?
BREITWEISER: Yes, I have to say two things really. No. 1, now that the Moussaoui penalty phase is over, I certainly hope that the information will be flowing freely to the American people. For four years, I and many other 9/11 family members have fought very hard to have information released go the public, information about governmental failures. We were always told that we couldn’t have that information because it would harm Moussaoui’s right to a fair trial.
Having said that, I would appreciate someone asking either Senator Biden or former Mayor Giuliani, if their standard for death is withholding information from the FBI that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks–how then are we excusing FBI agents Maltbie and Frasca, who were accused, or allegedly accused in the Moussaoui penalty phase itself, of being criminally negligent with regard to giving a FISA warrant.
How would you explain George Tenet, who withheld information about two of the 9/11 hijackers for 18 months from the FBI–information that certainly would have gone a long way into preventing those attacks. And I’d like to know, where are we drawing the line here, what is the threshold, and why are we not holding those types of people in our own government accountable?
And I think they’re going to have a long of explaining to do in Congress and at the White House when that information flows to the American people and the American people start asking similar questions.
Matthews talks to Biden for a while, then returns to Breitweiser.
BREITWEISER: Listen, all I would have to say with regard to the mens rea, throwing out a legal term, I’m a lawyer, but I don’t practice law, is that after 17 sailors died on the USS Cole and two of those hijackers that Tenet had under surveillance were inside this country, I would say that if you’re the DCI, you should know to bring those gentlemen in. You should know to bring the FBI in the loop.
Having said that, with regard to the 9/11 Commission recommendations, without doubt. I mean, you are talking about the city of New York still not having radios for the firemen. You’re talking about the Hurricane Katrina, where our evacuation protocols were abysmal.
We are almost five years out from 9/11. We have not paid any attention, we have not learned any lessons and the truth of the matter is, we are not any safer. If anything we are less safe.
And it breaks my heart. We–the 9/11 family members fought very, very hard to get those recommendations put in place. We fought hard for the commission. I don’t know what more it is going to take and I would ask Senator Biden to keep fighting down in Washington.
And we’d like to see some action and I would tell all the American people listening that the election is coming up, the midterm elections. Hold your elected officials accountable, because we are almost five years out from 9/11 and we are no safer.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. Thank you very much sir for joining us tonight. I want to ask Kristin, while you’re staying here–Kristin, what’s your emotional attitude towards Moussaoui yourself?
BREITWEISER: Clearly I am happy that he’s behind bars and he’s not able to wreak havoc and terrorize our cities.
MATTHEWS: Do you hate him?
BREITWEISER: You know, Chris, I really don’t hate him. I don’t know him personally. What I can tell you is that in the breakdown of the murder of my husband, Moussaoui is further down on the nexus link than other people, name Osama bin Laden, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Kalad Benetash (ph).
Those are the people that if you’re going to use the death penalty, I would like to see the death penalty used on. They had more of a direct connection than Moussaoui. You know, I am grateful that Moussaoui will be in jail. I am grateful that we can now have information flowing to the American people and hopefully that will energize the American people to force our Congress and our White House to start making changes so that we are safer.
MATTHEWS: You might have in your head, Kristin, whether you do or not, some bad news about the way we handled as a country, 9/11 before and after. What is it? What is your worst case thought about what’s being not made available to you now? The information you want to get. What do you think is in there?
BREITWEISER: You know what, I don’t know what’s in there. Obviously it is classified, but what I can tell you is we’d certainly like to have access to the CIA inspector general’s report. We’d like to have the full FBI inspector general’s report released. And we’d also like to have the WMD part two report released. All of those reports we were personally promised by members of Congress, the Intel committees and Porter Goss himself, the DCI–the current DCI, that they would be given to the American people.
I don’t know what to tell you. We’ve tried. We write letters, we do press releases. They’re not releasing that information. All I can tell you is it seems like they’re trying to hide something. And if it means that it will leak damning information to the American people about the failures on behalf of the government, I hope that that information will finally motivate our elected officials to do something, to learn lessons, and to make us safer, because on the day of the next attack, I genuinely do not know how our elected officials–everyone, White House, Congress, everyone across the board will be able to rest their head on their pillow and know that they did everything possible to save lives on the day of the next attack.
Michael Isikoff came on and talked for a while.
MATTHEWS: Bottom line, are you saying the government, based upon your reporting, is covering up for top officials all the way up to the vice president and that is preventing them from prosecuting these bad guys who were involved with 9/11?
ISIKOFF: I’m saying there are really difficult decisions about what you do, about how you handle this, but we haven’t had a discussion. There hasn’t been a Congressional inquiry into this, there hasn’t been a full public debate about this really naughty question of what we’re going to do with the people who were responsible for the worst crime in American history.
MATTHEWS: Kristin, I’m going to ask you because they’re the same three names you mentioned, starting with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11. What is your reaction to what Michael just said about the motivation that is keeping us from a trial for these people, the real perpetrators of 9/11?
BREITWEISER: Listen, I–more than anything, I’m pleased that Mike confirmed. This is a debate that needs to be discussed, and I hope people like you and Mike will question members of the administration and members of Congress who have condoned this.
And the questions you need to ask are, you know, did we garner valuable information that literally, truthfully prevented attacks? Have we harmed our CIA covert ops’ abilities to infiltrate behind enemy lines without having the Geneva Conventions in their back pocket? What did we really learn from these interrogation techniques? Did it really benefit us? Because–and also how did it harm us in the world community? How is the rest of the world looking at us right now?
We’re supposed to be a free, democratic, fair and just society. When you look at the cost benefit and you balance all of the facts surrounding the interrogation techniques that flowed with or without the White House’s approval, I think we’re going to learn that it is not the answer.
And I think we also going to learn that it has barred our ability, particularly the 9/11 families’ abilities, to hold anyone accountable when it comes to holding the actual al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And I think that that is a true travesty of justice
ISIKOFF: Because when they indicted Moussaoui, I think there was a legitimate belief that he might have been the 20th hijacker, and therefore and he certainly was an al Qaeda guy. He certainly came here with the intention of killing as many Americans as he could. There was no question that, you know, we had a bad guy who deserved to be put on trial.
But the connection to 9/11 was pretty tenuous. And, you know–and it became more tenuous as we learned more, as we got Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, they were able to tell, their interrogators, that look, we never–this guy wasn’t a part of the plot. He wasn’t a guy who we ever intended to use. He was kind of a little bit unable, and we had our doubts about him. We didn’t want to use him for such a sensitive operation.
That was part of the information they were getting from these guys, so all of that combined made it less trial make it less–you know, it made this trial make less and less sense. And as time went on, the question is, OK, if he wasn’t the guy who did it, what are we going to do with the people who did?
MATTHEWS: What is interesting Kristin and Michael, is that the president issued a statement tonight followed the verdict, the life imprisonment for Zacarias Moussaoui. And the interesting thing is, he doesn’t mention anything like what you’re talking about. He doesn’t say there’s three more big, bad guys out there involved in the actual perpetration …
ISIKOFF: More than three by the way. It’s probably about a half a dozen.
MATTHEWS: Well, the big names you both mentioned. He doesn’t precede it like we’ve got three more to go at least. He makes it sound like this is the end of the effort to punish those involved in 9/11.
Kristin, your reaction to that?
BREITWEISER: You know, first of all, I’d just like to clarify that Ramzi Binalshibh made a self-admission on Al-Jazeera that he participated in the 9/11 attacks. So it’s not even like it would be a difficult trial. It’s not like there’s a tenuous connection there. He made a self-admission, and yet we’re not prosecuting him. I think that speaks for itself in how we are failing to prosecute terrorists.
And with regard to the president’s comments, I think that it shows that he is clearly not in touch with what it takes to prosecute terrorists. I think for him to say that we’re all said and done, you know, game over, is ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: You seem–Kristin, I have known you–I was spending a lot of time with you back in the days just after 9/11, and not for awhile now. What has been your reflection on 9/11 and the loss of your husband at the World Trade Center in the months previous to today? Have you felt more angry at this administration or have you learned more? What’s your sort of state of mind right now?
BREITWEISER: I think, frankly, I’m scared. I’m scared with the ineptitude and the lack of understanding, the lack of, you know, depth to look longer than today. You know, you are talking about–just speaking specifically with the terror interrogation protocols, you are talking about a bunch of people that sat in a room and weren’t thinking, “What are we are going to do with these guys a year down the line? What are we going to do with these guys two years down the line?”
All they cared about was the next 10 days. And I think that shows that this administration is very short sighted. They are not looking longer term, they’re not planning. They’re not being even introspective.
And I think that’s what scares me the most because I know we have done so little to make this nation safer. We have not learned any lessons. And more than anything, my husband is dead. We have not held one person accountable. In fact, we have actually promoted people within our own government who failed to protect people like my husband that day. And to me, I find that scary, just flat out scary.
MATTHEWS: We’re back with Richard Ben Veniste who served as a 9/11 commissioner, and we’re joined right now by Kristin Breitweiser, who lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks.
Kristin, thank you for hanging on tonight. In our earlier edition tonight in HARDBALL, you raised an issue which grabbed a lot of attention from Michael Isikoff, the investigative reporter. It’s something I didn’t know. We have in our detection, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh. Tell me about those two men and what role you believe they played in 9/11.
KRISTIN BREITWEISER, 9/11 WIDOW: Firstly, I would like to say three people, three individuals, that had a more direct connection to the 9/11 certainly than Zacarias Moussaoui, they are Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Khaled Benatash.
One of them, Binalshibh, actually made a self-admission on Al-Jazeera television that he was, you know, connected to planning the attacks and carrying through those attacks. We have him in our custody somewhere in the world. And most likely, because of what we have done during the interrogation of those individuals, we are unable to prosecute them.
And I just want to say one thing. I’m hearing a lot of talk about being in awe of the American judicial system. I’m hearing talk about America winning here. The reality is–and I don’t want to detract from the work that the jury did and I’m very grateful. I certainly would not have wanted to be in their shoes.
But the reality here is that we prosecuted the wrong guy. The people that should have been prosecuted by our Justice Department with regard to 9/11 are the people in our custody right now, Ramzi Binalshibh, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Khalad Benatash. And we, the American people, need to start asking some very pointed questions to the administration why we are not prosecuting them.
MATTHEWS: Richard Ben Veniste, why are we not prosecuting them?
BEN VENISTE: well, I think there are probably a few reasons, one of which is the methods that were used to extract the information, as far as know, from Khalid.
MATTHEWS: Who approved those uses, those methods?
BEN VENISTE: I think that was from the top of the government. And one can argue about that. And we donâ€˜t know today how much useful information was obtained. We know some information that was corroborated. Of information that we had, some new information, some information that conflicts. That’s between Shaikh Mohammed and Binalshibh.
The one person who I think there is no ambiguity about is the man who is still at large, Osama bin Laden. And in listening to the horrifying stories of individuals like Kristin who have come forward and testified and been our friends and our companions in this fight to get all this information out over the years, Osama bin Laden is at the top of the food chain. He remains at large, taunted us to this day. And that is part of where we need to go to get to closure
MATTHEWS: But how do we get to bin Laden? He’s in somewhere in Pakistan, up in Malakand somewhere right now, We don’t know where he is, do we?
BEN VENISTE: Well we have diverted a very significant part of our armed forces, our capability, our treasure elsewhere following 9/11. And so Osama still remains the person most responsible for this attack.
Number two is the person in our custody, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. So those individuals, rather than Moussaoui, who was at the most, a marginalized bit player here to do damage and to take lives, but not trusted by the others and not privy as far as I know to any information that would have allowed him to know the time, the individuals who were involved for such an attack.
MATTHEWS: Kristin, who holds the secret to the rest of the 9/11 investigation? Who was the one person you’d like to get to turn him or her to really make it happen, to get the full story?
BREITWEISER: You know, clearly I think we have the information in our own governmental files. Whether you want to talk about the 28 pages from the Congress’s report that deals with terrorist funding from certain foreign governments.
Whether you want to talk about the CIA inspector generalâ€˜s report that is being withheld from the American people, the full FBI inspector general’s report with regard to 9/11 still being withheld.
Whether you want to talk about Richard Clark. He did a post mortem in the days after 9/11 at the request of President Bush and apparently even Commissioner Ben Veniste and the rest of the commissioners were not privy to that report. It’s been admitted to that the report was done. It apparently, no one can seem to find that report. And I think the American people could clearly benefit from it.
MATTHEWS: Have you been to see the president?
BREITWEISER: I’ve never been invited, no.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Richard Ben Veniste and Kristin Breitweiser. Up next, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. And later, reaction from U.S. Congressman Peter King of the Homeland Security Committee. He is also from New York. You’re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.