Week in Review

Linda Wertheimer reviews the week's news with Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Scott Simon is away this week.

General MICHAEL HAYDEN (Nominee, Director of CIA): I will draw a clear line between what we owe the American public by way of openness and what must remain secret in order for us to continue to do our job. CIA needs to get out of the news, as source or subject, and focus on protecting the American people by acquiring secrets and providing high quality all-source analysis.

WERTHEIMER: Air Force General Michael Hayden, speaking Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee. General Hayden is seeking Senate approval to become the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. A vote is expected next week.

Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr joins us

Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: What did you think? How well did General Hayden lay out his vision for the CIA?

SCHORR: Oh, I think he could probably say they never laid a glove on me. He made clear, however, that he was not going to be a handmaiden of the Pentagon, that the CIA was now going to go off on its own. He's going to get back to work some of the people who left because they couldn't work for Porter Goss.

I thought one of the most skillful parts is the way he used secrecy as an instrument in its own behalf. For example, when Senator Feinstein asked about CIA's interrogation processes of prisoners, he said, Hmm, let me defer that to closed session.

WERTHEIMER: Hmm.

SCHORR: I think my memory of him will be the guy who deferred to closed session the things he would rather not talk about publicly.

WERTHEIMER: Did you get a sense of how the CIA is going to fit under this new umbrella of the director of National Intelligence by Ambassador Negroponte?

SCHORR: I think it still remains that the prime briefer, on behalf of the whole intelligence community, is Negroponte, who's the head of the new umbrella organization. Other than that, this guy is a professional. And I think, like a professional, he can not only deal with the enemy, but deal with his own friends.

WERTHEIMER: He had to deal with some old news. The senators were pressing him on the extent to which telephone companies provided his old agency, the National Security Agency, with information about customers. Did you think you learned anything about domestic spying?

(Soundbite of chuckling)

SCHORR: The only think I learned about is how cleverly telephone companies can write statements.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SCHORR: I'm still trying to puzzle out what the denials meant, if they were really denials that would hold. But you know, he has to deal with these problems as they come out. For example, right now on his doorstep, as he prepares to take over, is a report of the United Nations Commission Against Torture, which urges that Guantanamo, Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp, be closed. That is partly military, but that's partly intelligence.

WERTHEIMER: Dan, let's move on to immigration. President Bush addressed the nation Monday night, calling for the National Guard and fences...

SCHORR: Yes.

WERTHEIMER: ...to protect the border with Mexico. And he also traveled to Arizona to push his plan for changes to immigration policy, asked Congress for $1.9 billion to pay for what he wants to do. What parts of that speech were interesting to you?

SCHORR: Well, what's interesting to me is the whole strategy that President Bush has adopted, in trying to get some kind of legislation through on this whole big issue of immigration. It's very, very tough. There are people who want immigrants, illegal ones, even, because business needs to have that kind of labor. There are those who say the most important thing is to simply close ourselves off and make sure that nobody can enter this country if we don't want them to enter this country.

I think it was typical of the way he's trying to balance this, the President, that he said he's now willing to build a fence along 370 miles. That's 370 miles of a 3,000-mile border, so it's a little here and it's a little there. I myself doubt that between now and Memorial Day, or perhaps even after, that we'll be getting legislation on immigration.

WERTHEIMER: What about the reaction to the speech from the public? Did you think - did you hear much?

SCHORR: No, I didn't hear very much in the way of public reaction. Mainly because, I think, the public as a whole no longer seems to take this administration very seriously. No longer seems to pay a lot of attention to what the White House does. And that may be why. But I must say it was not number one on a list of subjects to discuss this week.

WERTHEIMER: Iraq. We have very big news from Iraq. Today a new government was sworn in during a special parliamentary session. A 37-member cabinet that includes Iraqis from all the religious and ethnic groups. This has been a very long time coming.

SCHORR: It's been a very long time coming. And isn't exactly here yet because they need to have still a Minister of Interior and a Minister of Defense. They have not yet been able to agree on this. What they have done is to take it on an interim basis, acting ministers. And that will hold them for another week, until they try to complete it. But they have done well, but they just haven't finished.

WERTHEIMER: The announcement of a new unity government takes place against a backdrop of still more violence. As the government was being sworn in, at least a couple dozen people died, 60 were injured. In Baghdad bombings, there are reports that the middle class in Iraq is just giving up on the whole operation.

SCHORR: Well, some of the middle class, what we read, are giving up. It really is quite discouraging. There are people there who really would like to be under a democratic government of some kind, would just like at least to be able to go out into the streets with their kids. And that seems, the violence goes on, and continues going on whether there's a government or semi-government, or no government, somehow it's lost its connection.

The insurrection exists as a phenomenon of its own. And it doesn't seem to matter what the politicians do.

WERTHEIMER: Dan, there's been terrible fighting in Afghanistan this week, which left...

SCHORR: Yes.

WERTHEIMER: ...more than 100 people dead. This has been the heaviest fighting since U.S. forces invaded the country in 2001. Do you have a sense that the Taliban is regaining its strength? Or is there something else going on?

SCHORR: I'm not sure the Taliban ever lost its strength, really. They may have gone into hiding a little bit. But judging what's happening Afghanistan, judging what's happening in Iraq, the potential for violence never seems quite to go away. And Afghanistan was a place where the President was proud because we had scored a victory. And the victory didn't stay forever.

WERTHEIMER: In both Afghanistan and in Iraq, the most critical efforts that the government is trying to make have to do with security. Those are the two posts that were - the Iraqis were unable to fill in their cabinet. You see any hope on the horizon for making either one of those countries safer to be in?

SCHORR: No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SCHORR: To put it...

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Sadly, in a word.

SCHORR: To put it sadly, and to put it frankly. I mean, they're not going to send more American troops, or more NATO troops. They're not going to withdraw the troops right away. They're frozen into place in a place which is not a very good place. But there they are.

WERTHEIMER: Dan, back in the U.S. of A, the Senate approved a bill yesterday that would make English the official language of the United States. Do you think that this is a propitious time for this kind of legislation to actually become law?

SCHORR: Let me say, Linda, trying to keep a straight face, it always a propitious time to make a patriotic gesture of one kind or another. And I think that the Senate resolution is in that category. All I can say to the United States Senate is Vaya Con Dios.

WERTHEIMER: Thank you, Dan. Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr.

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