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MS. SKINNER: Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are right now in Phoenix, Arizona. They're getting a firsthand look at how Mexico's drug violence is spilling across the borders into our cities. Phoenix now ranks second in the world in the number of kidnappings for ransom.
What can be done? Well, the sponsor of today's hearing, Committee Chair Joe Lieberman, the senator from Connecticut, is here along with Committee member, Arizona Senator John McCain. Senators, thanks to both of you for being here.
Senator Lieberman, if we can start with you, what's at the top of your list, your number one question you'd like answered from these local officials you'll be talking with in a few minutes?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, this is the second hearing that we've held. The first was in Washington with the federal officials who are involved in this problem. I want to hear from the governor, the attorney general, the mayors, the sheriffs. We're going to hear today what's happening on the ground here.
Here's what we know. The Mexican drug cartels have become the number one organized crime threat in America, displacing the mafia; they're operating in at least 230 metropolitan areas around the country, from Anchorage, Alaska to Hartford, Connecticut and just about everything in-between. So this is a serious threat beyond the border.
But here at the border, there are some alarming facts, which is the kidnappings that you've talked about here in Phoenix, a significant rise in car thefts in many of the communities around here and some uptick in violence. We want to talk about what we can do on our side of the border as we work with President Felipe Calderon in Mexico, who has declared war on the drug cartels to his great credit. And this is part of why the violence is going on; they're fighting for diminishing turf. Now we've got to squeeze them from the American side as the Mexican government is squeezing them from the Mexican side.
MS. SKINNER: Senator Lieberman, I'm going to stay with you for a minute because the acting DEA administrator, Drug Enforcement Agency (sic) administrator, is quoted as saying, "We actually don't need more manpower, we don't need more resources at the border. What we actually need is more coordination, especially with Mexico, to go after these drug cartels." Is she right?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I disagree. I mean, I think we -- from all I know, and it's probably what we're going to hear today from the local officials, we need both. We need more coordination between the federal, state and locals. Frankly, there's not enough coordination between the DEA, Drug Enforcement Agency (sic), and some of the groups in the Department of Homeland Security, the Customs and Border Patrol (sic) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But this is literally a war. I mean, the Mexican drug cartels take between 17 (billion dollars) and $38 billion a year out of American drug sales. They are buying the most sophisticated weapons. They're fighting for the turf. And we can't -- we can't win this war unless we have enough personnel on the border here. To fight it effectively, we probably need some more tougher laws against some of the things that are causing this problem as well.
MS. SKINNER: Senator McCain, over to you. How -- realistically, how secure ultimately can we get this border with Mexico, even if we spend all the money that was being asked for, gave the locals what they want?
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I think we can have significant control over our border and to somehow say that we can't I don't think is an accurate depiction of the technology and other capabilities we have.
And by the way, the DEA person in Washington is in direct contradiction to the governors of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, who say we need additional troops on the border. They're the ones who are fighting this battle every single day. I think we should heed the governors who are having to -- to fight this every -- all the time, rather than someone in Washington, and all three governors have asked for National Guard on the border to help out. I support that.
MS. SKINNER: Senator McCain, I want to stay with you and switch topics if we can before we run out of time. As a former POW, we want to get your response to this release of portions of these CIA memo on torture. We just heard from General Michael Hayden a few minutes ago, saying in no uncertain terms this puts our country in danger. Your thoughts?
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, as you know, I -- it was my legislation, the Detainee Treatment Act, that prohibited torture, that said we had to abide by the Geneva Conventions for treatment of enemy combatants. And I wish that we had done that.
But release of these memos helps no one, doesn't help America's image; does not help us address the issue. And I think it was a serious mistake to release these memos.
MS. SKINNER: There's -- there's also a Justice Department memo that's set to be out today, saying that, you know, a couple of these names that unfortunately are so familiar to us, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the confessed mastermind of 9/11, 183 times. Too much?
SEN. MCCAIN: It's unacceptable. It's unacceptable. One is too much. Waterboarding is torture, period. And I can assure you that once enough physical pain is inflicted on someone, they will tell that interrogator whatever they think they want to hear. And most importantly, it serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us. And I've seen concrete examples of that talking with former high-ranking al Qaeda individuals in Iraq.
MS. SKINNER: One last question for you, Senator McCain, on this same topic. The New York Times reported over the weekend that their sources were telling them that they really got nothing new, particularly from Zubaydah when he was waterboarded after he was. General Hayden was clear about saying --
SEN. MCCAIN: Yeah.
MS. SKINNER: -- from his sources, he was told that is not true, that, indeed, they did get valuable information.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, according to the FBI, they did not, according to the CIA, they did. In all due respect, my view is that whether they did or not, the image of the United States of America throughout the world is a recruiting tool for Islamic extremists. And I got that from a former high-ranking al Qaeda person in Iraq in a prison.
MS. SKINNER: Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, joining us from Arizona today, thanks to both of you for your time.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you.