SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
This week, continued fallout from the Bush administration's interrogation policies. A deadline looms for the U.S. auto industry, and there's been increased violence in Iraq. We're joined now by NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Welcome back, Dan.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi Scott, glad to be back I guess.
SIMON: You were on vacation, but it's good to have you back.
SCHORR: Thank you.
SIMON: Everyone missed you. Look, President Obama says he wants to look forward. There is a lot on his plate and he's tried to do a lot in the first 100 days. But the whole issue of the interrogation policies of the previous administration keeps coming back.
SIMON: Is he going to be able to put that on a back burner?
SCHORR: Well, not so far. It is true, the president really loves to shove things of the past into the past so he can get on with a whole bunch of very big problems he has in the present. But it doesn't seem to be going away with regard to the so-called torture memos and interrogation of detainees by harsh methods. There's a - the Congress is vying for who is going to conduct the big investigation, whether it would be the Senate intelligence committee or whether it would be kind of a new 9/11 commission, something like that. It is not going away.
SIMON: What are the chances of legal consequences or a formal inquiry?
SCHORR: Well, the president himself said, even while saying please let's go on from this, he himself said of course if there were illegalities committed they would have to be punished. And he has asked the attorney general, Eric Holder, to look into that. Holder says it's under investigation, as this is a preliminary thing and the Justice Department may come out with a finding. If they don't, there is still Congress.
SIMON: And the issue of warrantless wiretapping of American citizens hasn't gone away either.
SCHORR: That was one they thought - a few years ago, when they thought, really, that one had been sewn up...
SIMON: Hmm, hmm.
SCHORR: ...this was all a part of the drive against terrorists, what they needed to do, to listen to everybody and find out who might be a terrorist. Unfortunately, they listened to a lot of Americans as well as - as foreigners. And that got a lot of attention about three years ago. But because there is this general tendency to - for an inquest into all of the past, that gets lumped together with the other issues, and that is still under investigation.
SIMON: And the name of a prominent Democrat came up in reporting about the result of wiretapping, representative Jane Harman.
SCHORR: Yes, now. Let me say, full disclosure, Jane Harman is a good friend of mine.
SCHORR: Having said that, let me say what I think I can say about this. It is clear that a few years ago, while Jane Harman was trying very hard to be named by speaker Nancy Pelosi to be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and not getting very far, at that time, it is said - is alleged in reports, that there was a compensation between Congresswoman Harman and somebody outside, and that it seemed to concern the idea of getting the Israeli lobby to lobby in favor of Jane Harman's getting that chairmanship, and in return, Jane Harman would try to do something about two Israeli lobby people who were facing investigation. Now I take no stand on it 'cause I don't know the facts. But it is something of a brouhaha.
SIMON: This week there was increased violence and suicide bombings, specifically, in Iraq. Does that affect the timetable for U.S. forces that President Obama set?
SCHORR: Well, obviously it has to. When the agreement was reached with the Bush administration, for kind of a timetable under which the troops would come out, somewhere inserted in that agreement - of course, if there's things happen which require them to stay, that would be reconsidered. You couldn't set a firm date considering what the situation...
SIMON: It depended on facts on the ground, always.
SCHORR: It depended on facts on the ground, that's right. And all of a sudden there have been a couple of very, very big suicide bombings, one with a woman holding her child by the hand and setting off a big bomb. And it looks as though the expectation that things were getting very quiet, it has not yet turned out to be true.
SIMON: The Taliban is reported to have advanced to 60 miles outside of Islamabad, capital of Pakistan. At one point the Pakistani government had ceded control of the Swat Valley to the Taliban. Now they're fighting those forces as they expand. What's the U.S.'s position on this?
SCHORR: Well, the U.S. position has just become sort of a nightmare for the U.S. They're going to spend another three billion dollars to help train the Pakistani army to do something about it. But the Pakistani army and all of Pakistan seems to be unable to cope with this. And we're faced with a very weak Pakistani government and a question of whether that government will survive. There's not much that the U.S. can do, 'cause every time they try to bomb some places where the Taliban might be, they end up bombing some civilians as well, which mean more people turn against the United States. It is really a no-win situation in which our country finds itself in Pakistan.
SIMON: No-win situation. U.S. auto industry has a very significant week coming up, both for Chrysler and the prospect of bankruptcy.
SCHORR: Well, there you are. There are rumors that - already planning for a Chrysler bankruptcy. I don't know if that is exactly true, but what is quite clear, is that in spite of all the infusion of money, all the efforts to get a report saying what you're going to do, they have not yet come up with something that looks like it would be an answer to this great question.
SIMON: You want to talk about the basketball playoffs. I thought I was looking at a misprint.
SCHORR: No, but you always want to talk about the latest sports…
SIMON: I - I know, and then you profess to have no interest or not know what I'm talking about.
SCHORR: Well, all right, so the NBA, huh?
SIMON: Yeah, the NBA. Go ahead, Mr. Basketball.
SCHORR: ...you want to know where I am...
SIMON: Yes, please, yes.
SCHORR: Ordinarily, Scott, because you come from Chicago...
SCHORR: I would certainly go with Chicago. On the other hand, I have a daughter and now a grandchild in Boston where the Celtics come from. So, I'm going to have to recuse myself...
(Soundbite of laughter)
SCHORR: ...and take no position on this one.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: Very statesmanlike, Dan Schorr.