Week in Review
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): This very, very critical for the future security of this nation, and we've done the very best we can. I believe we've come up with a good product. I believe good faith negotiations have taken place.
SIMON: Senator John McCain of Arizona speaking Thursday after the Senate passed legislation on the treatment and trial of terror suspects.
NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: And Dan, in this last week before Congress breaks for the mid-term election campaign season, debate focused almost exclusively...
SCHORR: That's right.
SIMON: ...on these related issues - terrorism, national security.
SIMON: Some legislation was left up in the air till after the election, but the Senate did pass the one big bill the president wanted, which lays out rules for the treatment and trial of terror suspects. What was accomplished?
SCHORR: What was accomplished was the administration is now trying to do as the Supreme Court said they would have to do: get Congress to authorize military trials and military commissions to do that. So they had 10 hours of debate. There's some question as to whether the Supreme Court will be satisfied with it. There are rules for military commissions. They can prosecute high-level detainees.
The question is whether this is going to be considered lawful or not. There are things in it, for example, like detainee or the defendant may not be able to see the evidence against him. There's question whether habeas corpus is retained by this. And so, yeah, they accomplished a lot. They got a bill and they got the bill passed for the president to sign. As to whether there will be others weighing in on it later, we'll see.
SIMON: Any progress that was made on the other legislation that the White House really wants, which is the issue of warrantless wiretapping?
SCHORR: That's right. That was an issue which was considered very important and that was one on which they could not reach a compromise, with a result that it now will come back after the election. It is very interesting though, as you suggested, that there's been so much attention being given by Congress in these waning hours before the election recess, so much attention at issues, one way or another, connected with national security and connected with terrorism.
I suspect that for election purposes the administration would like to keep the attention of the country focused on that rather than the Iraq war.
SIMON: What happened this week, of course, is that parts of the National Intelligence Estimate on the Iraq war were leaked to the press. Then subsequently there was disclosures of other sections by the White House. It said that the war in Iraq is creating a new generation of terrorists...
SIMON: ...and jihadists in and around Iraq. How do you assess what we were able to read in the report?
SCHORR: Well, I think it was terribly interesting. First, you got about a week ago a leak from this classified secret report. And that was the one that said that terrible things are happening, we're creating a new generation of potential terrorists. That of course upset the administration, which replied by saying, all right, we will declassify some other parts of that same report, which come out more favorably for the administration. Like saying that there's been a lot of good work done on counterterrorism. And the battle of the intelligence reports goes on.
SIMON: Let me ask you about the Bob Woodward book that's about to come out, I believe, on Monday. There was a...
SCHORR: Except The New York Times.
SIMON: Well, the spade of publicity was very nicely arranged to begin really this weekend: 60 Minutes appearance on Sunday, I believe, and I guess excerpts...
SIMON: ...in The Washington Post. But an enterprising New York Times reporter did an astonishing thing.
SCHORR: Yes. He paid retail for it and thereby managed to avoid whatever their deadline was for publication. Not to the great pleasure of the publishers.
SIMON: Let me ask you about what we've been able to glean, at least from that article about - and some other reports about the substance of the book. Reportedly, the book says that the administration ignored warnings about the strength of the insurgency three years ago.
SIMON: And has subsequently tried to disguise a rise in the number of attacks on U.S. troops.
SCHORR: That's right. And other things that you'll find in this book, which I have not yet read fully, was that apparently there were great feuds going on all the time with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, that Andrew Card, chief of staff, at one point asked that he be fired. You know, it's very funny that Woodward gets access on the assumption that he's going to write very favorably about what things are happening in the administration. This time, at least, in his third book, it is hardly very favorable to the administration.
SIMON: I want to ask you a question, as the political campaign season is about to begin. Oprah Winfrey, arguably the most influential opinion maker in America.
SIMON: More or less endorsed Barack Obama for president.
SIMON: There's been a spade of publicity about Senator Obama visiting his father's homeland in Kenya, flattering to adulatory newspaper profiles appearing. Can he resist running for president with so many people essentially saying you're the answer your party's been looking for?
SCHORR: He strikes me - I'm giving a purely personal impression of Senator Obama. He strikes me as being a very sane and steady person. I think he knows in his mind when his time will come. And I don't think it will be determined by Oprah Winfrey.
SIMON: Thanks, Dan Schorr.
SCHORR: Sure thing.