'This Week' Transcript: Target Libya


But I think his capability has been much degraded. For one thing, we have raised the level of our protection and our security over the years. I think his capability in the U.S. is not that great. If this operates today as it did when I was in office, we already have unfolded a plan to track all of his operatives in the United States and to make sure they're not in a position to do something. So...

AMANPOUR: So you're really prepared here for that?

CHERTOFF: I think we are prepared for this, but, again, the important thing is to continue to watch him not only here in the U.S., but look at American interests overseas, including people who are traveling or people who may be living overseas, as well.

AMANPOUR: I mean, his son said, no, that's not our target, when I asked him about retaliation. I mean...

CHERTOFF: Well, you know, he's like a cornered rat. And a cornered rat will do whatever it has to do in order to defend itself or to strike back. So while right now my suspicion is they have their hands full, it's certainly something -- it's prudent to consider that he may seek to divert attention or even to push back by striking someplace else.

But, again, his capability now is not what it was 10 years ago. And more importantly, we've got a much more robust security apparatus.

AMANPOUR: And, Governor Richardson, do you think that the U.S. is more at risk?

RICHARDSON: Well, I don't want to be an alarmist. And I agree with what the secretary said. But he's a very unpredictable -- he's almost a wild man right now. He's cornered. My concern is, does he have any chemical weapons? I am concerned about these mustard gas reports.

AMANPOUR: We asked Admiral Mullen about that.

RICHARDSON: No, I know what he said, but my concern is, there are some allegations that he was directly responsible for Lockerbie. My concern is, Americans in the Mediterranean flying I think should be extra cautious.

I don't want to be an alarmist, but when a man is cornered who is desperate, who wants to cling on to power, who sees his base narrowing, who is attacked, could be capable, as he has in the past, very horrendous things.

AMANPOUR: Let's turn to the other major, major story, this potential cataclysmic meltdown. Is there -- is the United States totally prepared to handle something like that? Could that happen here?

CHERTOFF: Well, let's -- let's define what we mean by handle. If you had a -- an earthquake that resulted in serious damage, devastating damage to a nuclear power plant -- and I'm saying that that would happen -- it would be a very ugly situation.

The critical issue would be to evacuate people in a timely fashion. Now, as part of the process of putting these plans in and as part of our general planning process, we have worked to develop evacuation plans. But make no mistake: They have to be drilled. They have to be exercised. And if that hasn't been done, it's going to become a challenge.

AMANPOUR: Has it been done?

CHERTOFF: Well, I think it varies. I mean, if you look at California, they tend to be very good about the process of preparation. Other states may not be quite as intense about it.

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