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Fox News "Fox News Sunday" - Transcript

Interview

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CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: For more on the terror threat against America, we're joined now by the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Joe Lieberman, and from New York, the top Republican on the House Committee, Congressman Peter King.

And, gentlemen, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y.: Good morning, Chris.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: Thanks, Chris.

KING: Good morning, Chris.

WALLACE: Senator Lieberman, you just heard Mr. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser. Your reaction to his discussion of the way that the case of the Times Square bomber was handled?

LIEBERMAN: Well, after the fact of the attempted bombing attack last Saturday night, the reaction was not just excellent, it was almost miraculous -- 53 hours and we've apprehended him. Great cooperation. Just the kind of work that we all hoped would happen when we set up the Department of Homeland Security post-9/11.

But the fact is that we were lucky. We did not prevent the attempted attack. And that's the -- in some sense, the fourth break through our defenses. Last spring in Arkansas, Hasan, the Detroit bomber and this one.

Look, we're in a big open society. And if people are fanatical enough to put their own lives on the line -- "I want to kill other innocent human beings" -- it's hard to stop them every time, but that has to be our goal. So I'd say in terms of prevention, the system failed.

And what we've got to do now is to go back, put all the facts together and look at every point. Was there something the U.S. government, our allies, could have done to stop Faisal Shahzad before he parked that car in Times Square?

WALLACE: Same basic question picking up on that with you, Congressman King. Is there something more the Obama administration could have done with at least three attacks in the last six months -- Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and now Shahzad?

KING: Well, I was very critical of the administration for the Major Hasan shooting. I was also very critical of the Abdulmutallab incident on Christmas Day.

As far as this one, Chris, the evidence isn't in yet as to what was available. Based on what we've seen, I don't know if we could have stopped him before he got -- Shahzad before he got to Times Square. We'll have to wait until, you know, all the dots are put out there. It's very difficult because we don't get very much information from this administration.

But one real criticism I do have, Chris, is what happened in the last hours of the investigation. Beginning some time on Monday afternoon, high administration sources were leaking out the most confidential, classified information which compromised this investigation, put lives at risk and very probably caused Shahzad to escape and make it undetected to the airport.

They were putting out information I'd never heard of in a -- in a case of this magnitude, and it was coming from the administration, coming from Washington. And I know the troops on the ground in New York were very concerned about it.

WALLACE: Congressman King, you just heard John Brennan say that Shahzad was questioned for somewhere between three and four hours under the public safety exception before he was read his Miranda rights.

Does this administration have the right balance now between, on the one hand -- and of course, one of the problems is Shahzad is a U.S. citizen -- but between, on the one hand, gathering intelligence and, on the other hand, trying to build a criminal case?

KING: Well, they clearly did not have the right balance on the Christmas Day bombing. They may have had it this time because I don't know, you know, why they made the decision after four hours. I hope they consulted with the director of national intelligence, the director of the CIA, the DIA, FBI, all of our elements of the intelligence community, to make sure that they'd gotten everything from Shahzad as they could have because, Chris, the real -- we have to realize we're going to face more and more of these domestic attacks, because we have done -- both the Bush and the Obama administration has done a basically good job of keeping terrorists from coming into the country.

So we're going to face more and more homegrown terrorists -- yes, American citizens. And we have to find out how we're going to deal with that, and what are we going to do with Miranda, because, you know, Miranda warnings are really a warning, not so much a right. It's a rule of evidence. And it's more important we find out are there other plots out here rather than actually what happens to Shahzad. He's off the streets anyway.

But if there's another 10, 15, 20 plots out there, that to me is more important to get all the intelligence we can on that. So I think we may have to work on revisions. I know Senator Lindsey Graham is talking about perhaps setting up an actual -- actually separate system of justice dealing with American citizens who are allied with a foreign army or a foreign enemy the way Shahzad certainly appears to have been.

WALLACE: Well, Senator Lieberman, that brings us back to you, because you...

LIEBERMAN: Yeah.

WALLACE: ... came up with an idea this week, a controversial idea -- strip the U.S. citizenship from any American citizen who provides material evidence to a foreign terror group.

Question: What about the presumption of innocence? How can you strip the citizenship before someone is convicted of a crime?

LIEBERMAN: Well, the presumption of innocence remains. In other words, this is a process. You know, I was surprised at how controversial the recommendation was, frankly.

And I think, in part, it was because people don't know that there's a 1940 statute amended several times since that says if you're an American citizen and you join the military of a country that's at war with us, it's basis for the State Department to begin a process to revoke your citizenship. That's been upheld by the Supreme Court.

I offered this proposal because we've seen a pattern now. Al Qaeda and the other terrorist groups are changing their mode of operating. And increasingly, they're looking for American citizens to carry out these plots, and one of the reasons is the passport that lets them -- like Shahzad -- come in and out of the country.

So the way this works, Chris -- the State Department decides based on intelligence and other factors -- or open statements -- Awlaki, the radical cleric in Yemen, is an American citizen. If he gets captured, do I want him read -- does anybody want him read his Miranda rights? No.

So I say the State Department ought to be able to begin a process, and these people can be represented. Look, an American citizen takes an oath to defend and protect the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic. If you join a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the State Department, which is what my amendment says, you violated that oath. You have no more right to be an American citizen.

WALLACE: But you know, Senator, that -- there was a 1940 law, but there were also Supreme Court rulings in 1967 and 1980, and they said if an American joins a foreign army, a formal army, that's fighting against the U.S., he still doesn't give up his citizenship unless he voluntarily chooses to do so.

LIEBERMAN: But in those cases, Chris, as I read them, they also said that action equals intent -- in other words, you can assume somebody's intention by their actions, by the very fact that they've taken up arms against the United States of America. The main change...

WALLACE: Well, in those cases they said joining the army wasn't enough. They had to voluntarily waive their citizenship.

LIEBERMAN: Well, but it wasn't that you had to come forward and say, "I'm no longer an American citizen." Incidentally, if any of these terrorists want to do that, they can stop at the local American consul's office and just say they no longer want to be citizens. People actually do that.

But the passport is part of a tool that the terrorist groups have now. It's probably the main reason why the terrorists in Pakistan wanted to use Shahzad. He had an American passport. We've got to stop that.

WALLACE: Congressman King, I want to go back to you and to this interesting conversation I just had about Eric Holder's statements with John Brennan in which he defended Holder, who's saying that it's still reasonable to consider holding a trial for KSM and the other 9/11 co- defendants in New York City. Your reaction?

KING: John Brennan is defending the indefensible. This was the most irresponsible decision any administration ever made when they said they were going to hold the trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in lower Manhattan.

You were going to be turning lower Manhattan into an armed camp. You were going to be, in effect, making it impossible for people to live in that area. Business would be gone. And you -- New York City and the region is already the number one terrorist target in the world. This would only increase it. It was absolute madness.

I don't believe they should be getting civilian trials anyway. You know, John Brennan talks about how we have to be respectful of the rights of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The fact is he can be tried in a military commission, and he said that he wanted to do it in the most expeditious way. He would have pleaded guilty over a year ago.

It was the Obama administration that stopped the military commissions, which stopped them being held in Guantanamo. This to me was absolutely wrong. This trial should never be held. And why they leave it out there -- I think what it is -- is Eric Holder is liberal ideologue. He doesn't want to back off from this.

And it presents a picture of confusion to the country and the world that the president and Rahm Emanuel have made it clear they want the trial out, Eric Holder still says it may stay in. What kind of a signal are we sending? We look disorganized, uncoordinated, and why John Brennan wants to defend that is beyond me.

WALLACE: And let me ask you both quickly -- and I'll start with you, Congressman King -- do you still have confidence in Eric Holder as attorney general?

KING: I do not.

WALLACE: Would you like to see him step down?

KING: That's up the president. It wouldn't bother me if he stepped down. Listen, he hasn't done anything for cause. I don't mean that. I just -- he would have been not my choice, certainly, and nothing he's done since then to me has generated any confidence in him whatsoever.

WALLACE: Senator Lieberman, do you still have confidence in Eric Holder?

LIEBERMAN: I disagree with some of the things that -- policies that Attorney General Holder has followed in some of these cases, but I haven't lost confidence in him to that extent. And as Pete King said, this is the choice of the president, not members of Congress.

WALLACE: OK. And finally, Senator Lieberman, we have about a minute left. You and Senator Kerry plan to introduce a new energy bill this week.

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

WALLACE: Given the oil spill in the Gulf, given the fact that your bill calls for more offshore drilling, do you really think there's a chance that this bill could get passed this year?

LIEBERMAN: I do, because the oil spill in the Gulf reminds us of a couple of things. The first is that we need to transition our energy system to one that doesn't depend on oil.

But in the meantime, as we're making the transition, which our bill would accelerate and create millions of new jobs in our country and make us energy independent, we've got to continue to use our domestic energy resources, because every barrel of oil we get from American offshore or onshore is one barrel less we are paying for to enemies of the United States around the world.

So I think we've got a real shot at this. I think it's about the best thing we could do to create jobs and make America energy independent, clean up some pollution. And I believe we're going to have the broadest group of supporters Wednesday when we launch this bill that has ever come together for an energy independence program.

WALLACE: Senator Lieberman, Congressman King, we want to thank you both so much for talking with us, and it's always a pleasure, gentlemen.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, Chris.

See you, Joe.

LIEBERMAN: See you, Pete.


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