Week in Review: London, CIA Leak, Rehnquist

Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr reviews the week's news with Scott Simon. Topics include the aftermath of the London blasts, the probe into exposure of a CIA agent and Chief Justice William Rehnquist's decision to stay on the job.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Commissioner IAN BLAIR (Metropolitan Police): I have said before, this explosion has the hallmarks of al-Qaeda. The simultaneous explosions, the fact that the dead appear to be sort of foot soldiers, and what we've got to find is the people who trained them, people who made the bombs, the people who's financed it, and that is where the investigation is going at the moment.

SIMON: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair speaking in a BBC interview Friday morning. The investigation into the attacks on London continues. Authorities there have identified four suspects who died in the blast and are investigating the possibility of more. On Thursday, the entire nation observed two minutes of silence. NPR's Dan Schorr joins us.

Dan, thanks for being with us.

DAN SCHORR reporting:

Oh, sure, Scott.

SIMON: And British investigators have learned more details about the bus and subway bombings, including the identity of a man who they suspect of being their ringleader. An Egyptian biochemist is wanted for question in connection with the bombings; has been arrested in Cairo. What kind of picture is emerging from these different pieces?

SCHORR: Well, this picture: The Egyptian biochemist you talked about had studied among other places in North Carolina. And it's interesting that most of these people are British subjects and even born in Britain. We're not getting them importing terrorists; they're homegrown terrorists who simply have learned something about jihad, the holy war, and want to carry it out in their own countries. Another small matter is they originally said that they thought that the explosive that had been used was very sophisticated, military type. That's been changed. It's the ordinary explosive, which is encouraging because if they were using very, very sophisticated explosives, that'd be something else to worry about.

SIMON: Following the attacks of September 11th here in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security was established and essentially revamped the airline security system in this country...

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: ...at great cost. The bombings in London, of course, remind us that not nearly as much, apparently, has been invested in ground transit--public buses and public trains. Do you see any signs that the Department of Homeland Security is going to change their emphasis?

SCHORR: Well, Michael Chertoff, who is the new secretary for Home Security, indicates not. He said at a news conference that he still thinks that the main thing he has to watch out for is airports and airplanes because you can kill so many more people at one time that way. Secondly, he says that he thinks that transit, whether it be by bus, subway train, is basically a local problem, but apparently he's not going to do very much more there.

SIMON: He wants local--he believes local municipalities have to bear most of those costs.

SCHORR: That's right.

SIMON: One place where the level of violence certainly doesn't seem to abate from week to week is in Iraq.

SCHORR: That is right. And one of the worst things of all was that terrible disaster...

SIMON: Yeah.

SCHORR: ...where here were some GIs handing out sweets to some kids, and 27 kids were killed presumably by an Iraqi. And you have to believe that the Iraqis after a while are going to not be able to stand for being killed that way by their own insurrectionists.

SIMON: Here in the United States, the White House and specifically Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove certainly seem to be at the center of a complex federal investigation into the...

SCHORR: Complex is right.

SIMON: Yes--into the identification of a CIA agent. Now that agent is the wife of diplomat Joe Wilson...

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: ...who was a vocal critic of the administration during the lead-up to the war in Iraq.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: Karl Rove apparently confirmed her status to Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper, who called him for a comment on something else. And later, in a statement that now seems to have been very carefully worded indeed he denied naming her.

SCHORR: Yeah. Well, carefully worded indeed. If you say that his wife is in the CIA but you don't say her name, does that mean you haven't named her? I mean, it doesn't take a reporter a great deal of effort once you know that it's the wife of Joe Wilson to go and find out who is the wife of Joe Wilson. So that becomes a little bit, you know, exactly as you suggested it, treading very, very carefully to avoid the possibility of perjury, which, at this point, yes, he'd be very careful about.

SIMON: But if it was Mr. Cooper who introduced the name in the conversation, does that make it harder to pursue a legal case?

SCHORR: It may make it harder to pursue a legal case. It depends really on how you'd interpret the words that I use. But at this point, it's really so far up in the air, and it has such rarified air that it's up in, that I prefer to think of it as a political thing and not a legal thing.

SIMON: Well, what about the political thing? Does it have legs as a political controversy?

SCHORR: I think it does. I mean, you--when you're going back to the origin of the war and the fact that as they got ready for war, the administration very badly needed to be able to show weapons of mass destruction. And nothing would have been better than rumors they heard that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger in Africa. If they could find that they were buying uranium, that would have been very good. And so they picked Joe Wilson, old Africa hand, to go and find uranium or uranium that Iraq wanted to buy.

SIMON: Now let me stop you there 'cause there's a version of events that says in fact the administration didn't pick Joe Wilson, that he was more or less nominated by the woman to whom he was married who was the CIA agent.

SCHORR: That's what they're saying now, but what they were saying then was that the request came from the office of Vice President Cheney.

SIMON: Now didn't Mr. Wilson himself say that as opposed to the administration?

SCHORR: Mr. Wilson himself said it, but he's said a lot of things which the administration isn't saying.

SIMON: And I have to ask you this for my own particular interest: This has become a very live political controversy that the press is feasting off of and whatever else happens, of course...

SCHORR: All the press except Judy Miller is feasting.

SIMON: Well, my point exactly. Is this a circumstance that would have developed unless the special prosecutor had threatened a couple of reporters with jail and a federal judge actually went ahead and has put a reporter, Judy Miller of The New York Times, into jail for refusing to testify about her source?

SCHORR: It's very hard to say what would have happened if something had been different; then everything would be different. No, I don't think it had to happen. I think it was quite a collection of little things put together and the rights of the press, rights of the defendants, rights of the CIA person to be undercover--all of those have come into play and made a real big mess.

SIMON: Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist had a fever this week, was in the hospital for a number of hours. But he made a point of saying that he's going to continue to preside over the Supreme Court as long as his health allows. Does this, in any way, cut down on the speculation over the court's future?

SCHORR: Well, yes, in a sense that it looked for a while that it was possible there would be two vacancies, and conceivably even three if Scalia were made chief justice and you have another vacancy to fill. If he had two or more vacancies, it would make it possible for the president to balance between the moderates and the centrists and the hard-line people by giving one and one. Now he has only one to fill, so he's back where he was before trying to figure out how he can nominate anybody without being in trouble with some group of people.

SIMON: President made a point this week in consulting with senators from both parties.

SCHORR: Yes, that was what you call senatorial courtesy. It's supposed to be advise and consent and let's hear your advice. I don't suspect that what the Democrats suggested to him will have any great effect.

SIMON: Recess appointment of John Bolton as the president's nominee for UN ambassador was widely expected.

SCHORR: Mm-hmm. Oh, yes. Is that still up there?

SIMON: Well, yes, it's still up there. And with the controversy around Karl Rove, with at least one Supreme Court confirmation to obtain, does that change the political calculous over whether or not it's a politically wise idea for the administration to go ahead with an appointment of John Bolton now?

SCHORR: Well, I think they have to go ahead because they have started. And if they don't go ahead, then the person has to admit defeat. And I think he's still making one last effort to get it done with an up-and-down vote before they then have to go to recess appointment, which would mean that he arrived at the UN as damaged goods.

SIMON: Dan, thank you very much.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

SIMON: Daniel Schorr.

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