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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

HOST:
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN

PANELISTS:
ELEANOR CLIFT
TONY BLANKLEY
MICHAEL BARONE
CLARENCE PAGE

DATE: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2001

.STX

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Securing borders. Thanksgiving is a time when images of America's early years stream across the mind: The Mayflower, Plymouth Rock, the pilgrims, the Boston Tea Party, and, inevitably, America's immigrant masses. Today, that's where nostalgia ends and sober reality begins.

Annually, the number of foreign visitors to the U.S. is -- get this -- 300 million; an estimate. And the number of illegal aliens in residence in the U.S. today is 12 million. Lots of those illegals are law-abiding, but lots of others are here for mischief and crime, even for atrocity, as we saw in horror on September 11.

So, after a long two months, we're finally beginning to wise up and guard our borders.

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: (From videotape.) In a number of countries, we are putting in place a temporary measure that will give us the time we need to make sure we're checking all the relevant data bases back here in the United States.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The temporary measure that Secretary Powell speaks to is a systematic screening of Arab and Muslim men seeking U.S. visas abroad. This is because all 19 of the hijackers aboard the September 11 jets held valid U.S. visas approved by U.S. government embassies. Of the 19, 15 obtained visas from the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia, two from the U.S. embassy in Berlin, two from the U.S. embassy in the United Arab Emirates.

So, Arab and Muslin male applicants will be screened rigorously, sometimes having to wait four weeks to get temporary visas, whether tourist or business or student. The new process involves all heavily Muslim-populated countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Malaysia.

Some people are annoyed by the Muslim focus: "This saddens us, as we know that even now there are many terrorists who are non-Muslims," says Malaysia's Muslim Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed.

Question. The global Muslim population numbers 1 billion. Must the U.S. be wary of every one of those 1 billion Muslims asking for permission to enter? Michael Barone.

MR. BARONE: Yes, I think that we should be on the lookout. As you pointed out, the September 11th hijackers were all Muslims, Arabs. That is the membership predominantly, if not entirely, of the terrorist networks that we're going after, so far as we know.

You know, John, the constitutional protection of equal protection of the law does not apply to foreigners or citizens of other countries. No one has a right to enter into the United States. Before September 11th, I understand that our consular service in Saudi Arabia was approving 97 percent of the applicants for visas to the United States, rejecting only 3 (percent). I think it'd be a good idea to put those numbers in the opposite and reject 97 percent of them, or even 100 percent from our friends, the Saudis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think they may be asking the question whether there is a reason to deny the visa rather than the question, is there a benefit to this person visiting the United States?

MR. BARONE: Perfectly legitimate question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The latter.

MR. BARONE: The former.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The former?

MR. BARONE: Both questions are legitimate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Both questions are legitimate. Do you think now we are shifting from the former to the latter? Namely, is this in the interest of the United States to have this person there rather than is there a reason to deny this person entry?

MR. BARONE: I think we ought to apply a pretty tough standard on this. The burden of proof is on the applicant.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, what do you think about this matter?

MS. CLIFT: Well, I think you're defining it too narrowly. A benefit to this country -- what would that be? Economically? Culturally? Who's going to define that?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Whether the visit is in the U.S. interest.

MS. CLIFT: Well, that can be terrifically broad. But it seems --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It can. And it includes our values.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. And who are you going to get to make those decisions? The people on the front lines who are deciding these visa applications are at the bottom rung of the Foreign Service. They can't wait to put in their dues there so they can go on to do something else.

This always comes back to turning these security jobs into career professional opportunities, if you will, so that you can get people in there who take their task seriously. Maybe you're going to have to get psychological profiles.

But it's perfectly appropriate for this country to screen people coming in. The dream of visiting this country, living in this country, is still there. Too many of us are immigrants to deny that. But we have every right as a country to have background checks. There's nothing wrong with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that question about the extent of the rigor that should be exacted in reviewing the application for visas by Muslims?

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think the problem is that because we have so few people processing so many applications, in the short term we're going to have to have a default judgment against granting the application. But what we eventually need to get to is a much larger staff of people processing them so that we can let in -- so reasonable judgment can be made. But until we have enough people to be able to rationally screen out, then for safety's sake in the short term, or maybe in the medium term, we've simply got to deny unless it's abundantly clear that the person is safe to enter.

MR. PAGE: May I (provide?) an answer for this, John?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please.

MR. PAGE: We've got to think outside the box. We're putting too much responsibility on the low-level worker who's looking at the visa or the passport there at the border.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The visa application.

MR. PAGE: Right. We've got to think larger than that. First of all, what does bin Laden want? Bin Laden wants us to have Michael Barone's policy, which is to have a negative quota that says, "Okay, no more Muslims or very few Muslims." Look, he's trying to divide further the East and the West to exacerbate this culture clash.

We do benefit by having, first of all, a good human rights policy that's unifying families, which is a long tradition in this country. That's one group that certainly we have a benefit in letting them in; secondly, highly-skilled people, professionals, the brain drain from overseas that has benefited us repeatedly over time; further open immigration policies that have helped us as far as having more labor.

Now, at a time like this, of course, we always shut the gate, in economic hard times or a time of terror such as now. But if we're not careful, we're going to cut off our nose in this country to spite our faces, and we're going to hurt ourselves more than we're going to help.

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree, but all of what you said is right except for the fact that we don't have the resources currently available, the number of men and women on the ground, to process and to make those judgments. So the short-term question is, what do we do until we have enough people to be able to make those rational judgments?

MR. PAGE: We've got to think more broadly.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. PAGE: It's an intelligence problem.

MR. BLANKLEY: Exactly.

MR. PAGE: We need to know up front --

MR. BLANKLEY: That's my point.

MR. PAGE: -- before the person applies for the visa, if they've got a record or if they're suspect. If you just declare them suspect because they're Arab or Muslim, that's a big mistake.

MR. BLANKLEY: The point is, I agree with you. But until we have the ability to research the backgrounds of these people, what do we do tomorrow afternoon? Tomorrow afternoon we have to say no.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to go back to your statement of profiling Arabs and Muslims. Every one of the terrorist attacks against the United States in the past 10 years has been that of an Islamic extremist. I'm talking Dhahran --

MR. PAGE: Timothy McVeigh. (Do you want to call him?) Mohammad McVeigh? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There are exceptions. I'm talking about --

MR. PAGE: The Unabomber.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- all of the foreign terrorists, all of the alien terrorists, have been Muslim or Islamic extremists.

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you going to let me finish? Are you going to let me finish? Now --

MR. PAGE: I didn't mean to interrupt you, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In addition to that, we have all 19 of the involved foreign alien terrorists involved in September 11th of that religion and of that Arab descent.

MR. PAGE: Correct.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, in addition to that, 67 percent of Muslim clerics in the United States, according to a poll on the Council on Islamic-American Relations, believe America is a corrupt and decadent society.

MR. PAGE: How many Christian clerics believe that? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Given that Muslim religious leadership already in this country view our tolerance and our pluralism and our liberty as corrupt and decadent, are we not to be wary particularly of this population?

MR. PAGE: You're asking it out of context, because a lot of Christian ministers believe we are corrupt and decadent, and we know that --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN (?): They're not preaching bomb-throwing.

MR. BARONE: Apparently a very large percentage of the Muslim clerics in this country are subsidized by the Saudi Arabian government and they are the Wahhabi sect, the same kind of strict Islamist that Osama bin Laden is. So I think we have very good reason to be wary. How exactly we apply this standard, I don't know. But I think that we ought to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MS. CLIFT: There is one practical thing that you can do, and that is, if you have people and you see they've taken part in protest movements against the U.S. in foreign countries, you don't necessarily have to say, "Hooray for freedom of speech; they could do that in this country, voice these opinions." If they have known anti-American views, maybe the welcome mat should not be out for them.

MR. BARONE: Hear, hear.

MS. CLIFT: That is a perfectly pragmatic, practical thing you can do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the era of unrestricted immigration over? Yes or no. Michael Barone.

MR. BARONE: Well, it's not unrestricted now. We have very large immigration. I think we're going to see some more restrictions of the type we've been talking about. But otherwise I think we will continue to see the sort of immigration we have had.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: It's never been unrestricted. Ask the Haitians, for example. But there are going to be new controls, and I think most people are going to applaud them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is the era of relatively unrestricted immigration over? (Laughter.) See if you can get around that one.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, I think the short answer is yes for a period of time. I think we're going to really clamp down. We're going to spend a lot of money and it's going to be a lot harder for foreigners to get into the country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence.

MR. PAGE: I agree with that. Tony was right before when he said we're not prepared right now for the kind of procedures that we need. But for the time being, there will be a tightened-up bottleneck. But over time, this country has benefited from borders as open as possible, and they'll continue to be so.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes, it's over, and it's overdue over.

When we come back, up to 12 million aliens are in the U.S. today illegally. Tens of thousands have criminal, even terrorist, intent. How do we discover who they are and where they are?

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two. INS: "Information Not Sought." U.S. law enforcement authorities don't know where most foreign visitors are or who they are. They melt into the madding crowd. Upon arrival into the U.S., an immigration officer examines the alien's passport, visa and a form that gives a supposed address.

FBI DIRECTOR ROBERT MUELLER: (From videotape.) One finds that when they fill out the cards at the border they can put down Marriott, New York City, and, as everybody knows, there are a number of Marriotts in New York City. It is very difficult, quite often, to find somebody once they're in the country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The alien simply disappears, then gets a de facto identity status through a couple of simple procedures.

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ): (From videotape.) For about $50, you can get a fake driver's license and a fake Social Security card. For 50 bucks you can become whoever you want to be in this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Then the illegal alien may ignore the limitations on his visa and decide to become a stay-over, perhaps waiting for amnesty five years down the line. Is the INS to blame? Some say yes. "It happens all the time. The visitors lie. They have problems with their passport. And a supervisor looks at them and says, 'They look okay to me.' Stamp." So admits Jose Touron, an INS inspector who broke his silence after the September 11 attacks.

Here's another INS inspector who concurs with Touron. "I agree with INS inspector Jose Touron's assessment of the persistent problems that plague the INS. It is an agency doomed to fail. The organizational structure is rife with nepotism, corruption and incompetence. The INS gave up on safeguarding America's borders a long time ago. The institutional paralysis that plagues the service may be partly responsible for the September 11 tragedy." Unquote. So writes former INS inspector Marco Fernandez, Laredo, Texas.

Question: Is this critique of the INS, the second one particularly, overstated or on the mark? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Look, the INS is an easy scapegoat. But who writes the rules? Congress. It's Congress that says they should process everybody coming off of a plane in 45 minutes. The airlines want them to view people coming in as customers, not potential terrorists. When they're trying to crack down on illegal hiring of immigrants -- of illegal immigrants in this country, the Chamber of Commerce objects. When they to track students on student visas, the colleges object.

And, in fact, 21 members of the U.S. Senate were behind the almost junking of the system that's being now put in place to track people who overstay student visas or who don't even show up at college, like Hani Hanjour, the gentleman who flew the plane into the Pentagon. He never showed up at his college in California and nobody thought to look.

So, you know, blaming the INS -- I mean, they have, what, 2,000 agents to police the whole country? That's about the size of the San Diego police force. So if we want them to perform, we've got to pay for it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think we all agree with the points you've made. It's terribly understaffed and underfinanced, and Congress is very unrealistic. But what about this question of equivalently buying your way into the country, corruption, persuading INS inspectors to lie by slipping them bucks? What about that?

MS. CLIFT: You know, corruption will always be with us. And people who try to get into this country are going to constantly figure out new ways to do it. Here technology may provide part of the answer when you're going to have digitized passports and so forth.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is --

MS. CLIFT: But, you know, we're never going to be 100 percent protected.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is what the Bush people are proposing. You divide the INS with enforcement and intelligence on one side, and on the other side, immigration services, but it's all within the INS. Now, that is doomed to failure, because you know from your wide experience in the Congress how one entity, a bureaucratic entity, will engage in serious infighting with another for perks and power. You know that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So therefore, this is a foolish way to go, is it not?

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And if that's the case, what is needed?

MR. BLANKLEY: I think a fundamental reorganization is needed, because unfortunately, while there are some wonderful people working there, against all odds, a lot of the folks there call themselves stamp jockeys, self-contemptuously, because the whole culture of the system is stamp 'em and push 'em through.

And I think you need to combine the consular corps, which is currently at the State Department, which is the first line of defense, with the men and women here in one unit. And I don't know where you put it, but I think you've got to recreate the system, because I think the culture is (fixed?). I think the critique that you read is an accurate one. And while there are many good people trying very hard to work in a very bad system, we need to sort of start over again.

MR. PAGE: And the policy. But beyond the policy --

MR. BLANKLEY: I agree with Eleanor. All the pressures that Eleanor described is exactly right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Just remember the fundamental question. The fundamental question is how do you find -- and this is the second front of this war. We have a war or problem dealing with those incoming. But there is a huge reservoir of aliens in the country who have criminal intent. How do we find them, and how do we prevent someone from getting an identity through a de facto identity through a license --

MR. BARONE: John, it's a matter of enforcing existing laws.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the automobile license is very easy to get.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the Social Security Administration will be the first to say that there has been --

MR. BARONE: Clearly we've got to keep better track. Formerly, until, I think, the 1980s, resident aliens were regarded to report their addresses once a year. With modern electronics, we should be able to keep closer track of those --

MR. BLANKLEY: Unfortunately, the only way we're going to ultimately secure our borders is to go to a biometric national ID card. And that's a huge price to pay for --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're talking about the face structure, the retina of the eye, the thumb print or DNA. Correct?

MR. BLANKLEY: Some combination of those. But we would pay a huge price in our civil liberties to do that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a minute. The Brits do that.

MR. BLANKLEY: I know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Brits have an identity card.

MR. BLANKLEY: I understand.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So we're not paying that huge a price. That's a civilized country -- (inaudible) -- by the Magna Carta. You ought to know that.

MR. BLANKLEY: Notwithstanding that, the majority of Americans -- I'd probably include myself in that category -- do not want to have a national ID card. But we have to understand --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wait a second --

MR. BLANKLEY: We have to understand, if we don't go with a national ID card, we can't secure our borders.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The majority of Americans today do favor an identity card.

(Cross-talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the single best thing that the United States could do, in view of the enormity of this problem, is declare a temporary moratorium on immigration until we have created effective controls? Michael Barone.

MR. BARONE: No, that's kind of a lunatic idea, John. The fact is that our economy requires immigration to continue as it is. We should screen people more toughly. And we're also -- a lot of people from Latin America are going back there now because the U.S. economy has slowed down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: No. That would hand the terrorists yet another victory.

MR. BLANKLEY: No, but we need to really be much tougher and put a lot of resources in as quickly as possible.

MR. PAGE: Nobody has mentioned the fact that drug traffic across the Mexican border has been cut substantially since 9/11 because we're --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want a temporary moratorium on immigration?

MR. PAGE: It's not necessary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes, it is needed. If the spigot is leaking, there's no point in trying to clean up the plumbing. You've got to shut off the spigot for a temporary period of time until we get the situation under control.

We'll be right back.

(Announcements.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three: Rethinking the FBI. To cope with the immensity of this problem of the porousness and the potential of a real population of thousands who have criminal and worse intent who are resident and unknown in the country, the FBI is revamping itself. What is it doing? Tony.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, what is being proposed is to shift resources away from things like civil rights and environmental enforcement to what is essentially going to be counterterrorism, to move away from bank robbery, drug investigations, that they'll shift to other agencies, to counterterrorism.

I think, as a general proposition --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's going to be a central function, its ratio-entis, its reason for being.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yes. And I think that makes sense. But politically I don't think they can slough off on environmental and civil rights protection. I think they're going to have to keep those, you know, at the current resources, and the Congress is going to have to grant a lot more resources to the FBI to beef up their counterintelligence, because I don't think it's one or the other. It's going to have to be both.

MS. CLIFT: And I think they're also going to be a lot more involved in what you can generously call domestic intelligence, because the purpose of the new FBI is to prevent terrorism attacks more than trying to bring court cases against people who are identified --

MR. BARONE: Congress has gotten in the bad habit in the '80s and '90s -- and both parties are at fault here -- of making federal crimes of all sorts of things which really should be state and local. I mean, the FBI for years has been recovering stolen cars that are taken from Newport, Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio. It doesn't need to be doing that. It should get rid of a lot of these tasks which Congress has unwisely given to them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would like to know whether Robert Mueller, the new head of the FBI, is up to the job. He's a Washington insider and he knows his way around Capitol Hill and he knows his way around the agency. Do you want to attack that question, Tony?

MR. BLANKLEY: No, I don't think he's just a Washington insider. He's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'd regard that as a compliment.

MR. BLANKLEY: Well, it's a compliment, and it's something else.

MR. BARONE: He was U.S. attorney of San Francisco.

MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. So he wasn't just in Washington. He's considered a straight shooter, a level-headed kind of a guy. Counterintelligence is a very unusual activity. It requires the kind of subtle mind, bordering on paranoia, that I don't know whether most people want to have.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he has any bureaucratic loyalty to the FBI, or do you think that he knows how to play his cards very well, particularly with Congress, which is essential?

MR. BLANKLEY: It's too early to tell. I don't get a sense of --

MS. CLIFT: In his earlier careers, he has a reputation as somebody who is pretty fearless about changing personnel and moving in new people. I think he's going to do that at the FBI. He has a reassuring public presence. And except for a few poorly-advised alerts, I think he's done a good job.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly, rate John Ashcroft, A to F, since September 11th.

MR. BARONE: B+.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: C-.

MR. BLANKLEY: A-.

MR. PAGE: Very secretive.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you rate him at?

MR. PAGE: A+ on secretiveness.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is A+. Bye bye.

(End of regular program.)

(Begin PBS segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: You've come a long way, baby. There's a new gun in town and, boy, is she mad. September 11 has changed a lot of things. Women are normally dovish on matters military. Today, they are exceedingly more hawkish than ever. Forty-seven percent now want higher defense spending. That's up 23 percent since September, pre 9/11. And get this: Also before September 11, 53 percent of women with children wanted a Bush missile defense shield. Today, two months later, that number has jumped 20 points to 73 percent.

What explains this shift in the gender gap on military issues not seen before, even in Vietnam, the Gulf War and Kosovo? "What we're seeing is women expressing a desire for safety at home, rather than support for an adversarial foreign policy or a geopolitical policy." So says Andy Kohut of Pew Research.

Question: Should we be surprised at the militancy of America's females? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: No. The gender gap has vanished because women are really scared. And there's a poll that asks, "Do you think that you or a member of your family are going to be directly affected by terrorism?" Men answer it somewhere in the teens. Women, it's almost half.

They're scared and they're looking to government to protect them, which is where they always look. And, you know, I think it's perfectly natural for women to want to protect this country and to protect their home and hearth every bit as much as men, now that the war has reached us on our soil. That's the critical difference.

MR. PAGE: That's very true. Nothing concentrates the mind or unifies the country like being attacked from outside.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about women here.

MR. PAGE: Women, men, black, white, you name it. Across the board, you're seeing remarkable unity in the polling. Where you begin to see a division is in the question of what to do about it. And if we are perceived as going out bombing too many innocents, you'll see that gender gap re-emerge.

MR. BARONE: Oh, I don't think so.

MR. PAGE: But right now --

MR. BARONE: I would respectfully disagree with you.

MR. PAGE: I'm talking about perceptions. If people perceive it that way, then you'll see a gender gap re-emerge. If they don't perceive it that way, if you see a clean victory, then you don't see --

MR. BARONE: Well, and I think Andy Kohut's comment is just a little condescending toward women. I think women and men have all taken public affairs seriously. But, you know, there's been a widespread feeling in this country before September 11th, more common among women than men but present among many men as well, that in foreign policy, if you just avoid confrontation, make nice to the other side, concede, propitiate, take former terrorists and negotiate with them, whether it's in Northern Ireland or in Israel, everything is going to be all right. You can make everybody happy together. September 11th changed a lot of minds, basically. They found there are some people you can't propitiate and must destroy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, does it go deeper than that, though? In the Delta counterterrorism school, the forces are trained in a terrorist situation, hostage-taking, to kill the women terrorists first because they are fierce. A woman is fierce if she is politically committed, and she will show that in her behavior. (Laughter.) And while they are the weaker sex, they are gifted and intensely involved in the destruction of their true enemies. Is that all true? (Laughter.)

MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know. I think both sexes --

MS. CLIFT: I really relate to that description, I must say. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Women terrorists will kill the hostages first if they are truly politically committed. Does that surprise you?

MS. CLIFT: How big a pool of women terrorists do we have to draw these conclusions from? Name me one. (Laughs.)

(End of PBS segment.)


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