FOX NEWS CHANNEL INTERVIEW WITH REP. PETER KING (R-NY)
SUBJECT: MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS INTERVIEWER: BILL HEMMER
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MR. HEMMER: Staggering numbers, 7,000 people in Mexico said to have been killed in drug-related violence since the start of last year; the carnage stoking fears on this side of the border that Mexico's army will not be able to keep a lid on it.
Now, the Homeland Security Department revealing its plan to deal with the problem eventually, including the possibility of sending troops, the U.S. Army, the National Guard, to the border.
Check this out from a hearing just yesterday.
VICE ADMIRAL ROGER RUFE (Office of Operations Coordination, Department of Homeland Security) (From video): We're working very closely in the planning process right now with our brethren in the National Guard and Department of Defense to make sure we're ready when the time comes, but as the president said yesterday, we very much do not want to militarize our border so that is, essentially, a last resort, but we're planning for it if it becomes necessary.
MR. HEMMER: All right. That was part of yesterday's hearing and in that hearing, Congressman Peter King, Republican Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee, and sir, good morning to you. Welcome back to our program here.
You know what the Texas governor said about a month ago. Rick Perry says we need more help; we need more troops down here.
Now, what is your sense about what's happening along that border today?
REP. KING: Oh, the border is definitely chaotic. This is very, very dangerous. We're talking about heavily armed cartels, you know, the murders were 7,000 last year, it could be more than 10,000 this year. There is a real danger of it spilling across the border. As it is, they do come across the border and carry out kidnappings in the United States, carry out murders in the United States.
So, obviously, more has to be done at the border as far as keeping the violence from spilling over, and also, to prevent American guns from going across the border from the U.S. to Mexico, both of those are very important.
MR. HEMMER: Which has been a major complaint on behalf of the Mexicans. You know where the administration stands on this. They're clearly aware of what's boiling on the other side of the border, but as far as sending more troops down there, be it the Army or the National Guard only as a last resort. In your view, is that the right call?
REP. KING: I believe we certainly have to be ready to use the Army, Bill, I mean, the concerns I have -- I know Governor Perry asked for 1,000 National Guard troops. When we had the National Guard troops down there three years ago, that was to stop illegal immigrants and it worked and I was down there at the time with the Guard at the border observing what they were doing, but that was not a particularly dangerous job.
We're talking now about dealing with heavily armed gangs, heavily armed cartels and before we send troops in, we have to make sure, first of all, that they're trained. We have to know what the rules of engagement are, how armed they're going to be, how they're going to coordinate with the Border Patrol.
One thing I think the National Guard troops could do and that's to serve as MPs as far as inspecting vehicles coming down to see if they have guns going across the border.
And so I'm not against the use of the Army to help at the border, I'm just saying before we do it, before we put any American in harm's way, we make sure that they know what their job is, they know what their rights are, they know what their duties are and to make sure that they are coordinating with the Border Patrol.
MR. HEMMER: So you're saying that the mission has to be clearly defined, and I wonder, too, if you work in coordination or cooperation with the Mexican army on the other side.
REP. KING: We have to do that, and if we do do that, to me, that takes away the jurisdiction of the governor. You know, it was the governor of Texas, the governor of Arizona, it's hard to be giving them any kind of military jurisdiction when we're talking about a foreign country, we're talking about an international border.
So this has a lot of ramifications that I hope are being thought through and, obviously, I'm very concerned about the Department of Homeland Security, but it's also very much a Department of Defense issue. So we have to make sure that every one is on the same page. I don't want to see one American soldier killed at that border because we didn't know what the rules of engagement were or because there was a mix-up between the Border Patrol and the Army or because our troops didn't have the right to fire back and they get caught in a crossfire with the cartel.
MR. HEMMER: Well, your caution is well understood and well taken here. You say 1,000 troops are down there, I think it was about a year ago, is that right? Do I have my dates correct on that? Was it 1,000 that we pulled back?
REP. KING: Actually, we had about 8,000, 9,000 troops down there going back three years ago and President Bush ordered them in, in Arizona and in Texas, they were along the border.
MR. HEMMER: Wow, that's a lot higher than I thought it was. In this case, would be it that high? Would it be more? What have you envisioned for what that mission would be?
REP. KING: You know, I, again, I would leave that to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, but I think it would take at least 1,000. Governor Perry has asked for 1,000 troops and, listen, I'm saying we have to do it, do it. I don't want to hold back. But at the same time, I just to want make sure that our troops have the right and the wherewithal to do what they have to do and that they are trained and coordinated with the Border Patrol and that we have coordination with Mexico, so we know upfront what we're going to do and what we're not going to do.
We can't have any screw-ups at that time because once the firing starts, I want our troops to be fully prepared.
MR. HEMMER: It was a hot hearing yesterday. Peter King, thank you for your time today. Appreciate it.
REP. KING: Thank you, Bill.
MR. HEMMER: All right.