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Fox News "Fox News Sunday" - Transcript

Interview

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CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: For more, we bring in the three top officials working the crisis for President Obama. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and from New Orleans, the commandant of the Coast Guard, Thad Allen.

Secretary Napolitano, before we get to the oil spill, I want to ask you about that car bomb overnight in Times Square in New York City. New York Governor David Paterson is calling this an act of terrorism. Do we know that?

HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, we're certainly considering it right now as if it could be an act of terrorism or was intended to be an act of terrorism. And so, everything in terms of the investigation is being done, all the forensics are being done, all the leads are being pursued. It's the city of New York, it's the FBI, it's the Department of Homeland Security. It's looking at the vehicle, it's tracing fingerprints. It's looking at video, because there are a lot of cameras in the area. A lot of activity today in terms of investigation.

WALLACE: From what you've heard -- and we understand it's very early, the very early hours of this investigation -- can you tell anything about fingerprints? I mean, you know, in terms of technique from the bomb, the explosive device that was inside that SUV?

NAPOLITANO: Well, nothing that was not already said in the intro piece. It was a rather amateurish type of bomb. It was propane tanks, with a can, with -- there was to be a starter linked to an alarm clock, a timer. But beyond that, I think we'll have to let the investigatory process move its way down.

WALLACE: And one last question. Do you have any evidence as to whether this is homegrown or whether it has links to foreign groups?

NAPOLITANO: It's too soon to tell, but again, we're not ruling anything out at this point.

WALLACE: OK. Admiral Allen, let's turn to the oil spill. And we'd like to ask you, what is the latest on the spill? First of all, some experts are saying that it's leaking much more than the 5,000 gallons a day that we had been told. And secondly, is there any quick solution left? Or at this point, are you looking only at ideas that are going to take weeks or months?

COMMANDANT OF THE COAST GUARD, THAD ALLEN: Well, Chris, this morning, the oil is about nine miles off the southeast coast of Louisiana near Venice. And we're watching it very, very closely. As was earlier noted, some of the problems we're having right now have to do with Mother Nature and the weather. High surf and wind are making the deployment of boom problematic, and so we'll continue to fight that battle throughout the day and make sure we do everything we can down there.

In regards to the release of the oil from the bottom, I think we all need to understand this is an inexact science. We're trying to make estimations from video that's being taken by remotely operated vehicles at 5,000 feet. But quite frankly, whether it's 1,000 or 5,000 barrels, the potential for a catastrophic loss of that wellhead has us planning far ahead of that. And from the start of the event, even before there was a spill, we've been pre-deploying equipment under the assumption we are going to have a worst-case scenario here.

Now, we certainly hope that doesn't happen, but prudence dictates that we be prepared to deal with that. And what you want to do is stop the leak at its source. If you can't do that, then you have to attack it on the surface, and we have done that with mechanical means of removal through skimming. We've done an in situ burn, and deploying dispersives. But as was noted earlier, some of that is weather-dependent and it's very difficult for surface ships to operate out there in the current weather.

WALLACE: And just real quickly, at this point, does it look like the blowout preventer is inoperative, is not going to work, and that you are going to have to find a solution that is going to take weeks or months?

ALLEN: It is going to take some pretty heavy-duty forensics, and I'd ask Secretary Salazar to comment. But there are about -- there are four or five different devices that can actuate inside the blowout preventer, including one that can sheer the pipe, one that can crimp the pipe, and a rubber ring that can enclose around it. And I think we're going to have to find out why it didn't actuate, because this is supposed to be a failsafe mechanism. And there is going to be a joint investigation conducted between Minerals Management Service and the United States Coast Guard, at the direction of Secretary Salazar and Secretary Napolitano.

WALLACE: Secretary Salazar, what is the damage to the Gulf Coast so far? And if this goes on for weeks or months, what is the potential scenario out there?

INTERIOR SECRETARY KEN SALAZAR: You know, it is a massive oil spill, and our campaign here has got to be to move forward and do everything we can to restore and to protect the Gulf Coast and all of its environment. Within just the Gulf Coast area, we have 20 wildlife refuges, which are some of the best wildlife refuges in the country. And so what Admiral Allen was saying was correct. Every effort is being made to stop the source right now. There has not been a minute of rest since this started.

And so hopefully the source will get stopped. If ultimately this is going to require what the ultimate solution is, and that is the relief well, you are looking at 60 to 90 days. And so having this preparation to make sure that we are doing everything we can for this worst-case scenario is an ongoing effort. The president has directed that not a single effort be spared to make sure that we're protecting the American people and the American environment.

WALLACE: If this goes on 60 or 90 days, we're talking about a situation worse than the Exxon Valdez.

SALAZAR: That is absolutely the case. I mean, we have to prepare for the worst-case scenario here, and we need to make sure that we're protecting those very precious resources along the coastline, as well as the economies that are dependent on these precious coastlines.

WALLACE: Worse than the Exxon Valdez, though? Eleven million gallons.

SALAZAR: There are scenarios that it could be worse than the Exxon Valdez. We're not sugar-coating this thing, and we need to make sure that we're prepared for the worst-case scenario, and we've been doing that since day one.

WALLACE: Secretary Napolitano, on Friday you called on BP, the oil company responsible for this spill, to step up its efforts. Specifically, what would you like to see them do that they haven't done so far?

NAPOLITANO: Well, British Petroleum needs to get the spill stopped. We need to do more and be working on the surface of the ocean to make sure that we're doing everything to keep the still from reaching shore. And then they need to be doing more in terms of protecting shoreline. Hiring local workers to help with that shoreline response, doing all they can to be out there in the communities, because they are ultimately responsible.

We, on the other hand -- and now we have the commandant actually on scene -- are making sure that all the federal resources are being brought to bear in a coordinated way with the states that are involved. And so all of that work has been stood up since the first day of the incident.

WALLACE: Admiral Allen, the government can at any point federalize this operation, handle it yourselves, and then let BP pay the bill at the end of the process. Why not do that right now?

ALLEN: Chris, I think the term federalizing the spill is an antiquated term probably associated with the perceptions around the Exxon Valdez. By statute and by regulation, BP is the responsible party, and they will bear all the costs. We need to have an effective, integrated response to this thing, and that's what our goal is. We do not want to relieve them of their responsibility or the cost burden associated with that.

We do have recourse to -- the oil spill liability trust fund and can use that, but we'd back-charge BP for that. By statute and by law, BP is the responsible party, but as I said repeatedly, we are the accountable federal entity for oversight, and we intend to do that.

WALLACE: But couldn't you take over? I understand that they're going to have to pay for it under any circumstances, but couldn't you, couldn't the federal government run this operation instead of letting BP run the operation?

ALLEN: Chris, we could, but there are already resources in place and they have a structure in place to do this. And it's a matter of how we do this most effectively. And quite frankly, it's a combination of BP and the federal government.

There are some resources, including these very sophisticated ROVs, that are not in the government inventory that include reaching out and getting the best practices from the private sector all over the world. I think the balance is correct. We both have to execute our responsibilities.

WALLACE: A number of Louisiana officials are saying that the Obama administration was slow to respond to this crisis. And I want to review the timeline of what has happened here. On April 20th, the explosion of the drilling platform. For days, BP and the Coast Guard say there is no leak. On April 24th, we're told it's leaking 1,000 barrels a day. On April 28th, the estimate is raised to 5,000 barrels a day. It's not until April 29th, nine days after the accident, that the president makes his first statement about what is now called an incident of national significance.

Secretary Napolitano, should the administration have responded faster?

NAPOLITANO: Oh, the administration responded with all hands on deck from day one. What happened is the situation itself evolved. The situation evolved from an explosion and a search-and-rescue mission to several days later the actual sinking of the rig. At that point in time, the oil was being burned off on the surface. To the next phase, was that the oil began to spread, and could not all and was not all being burned off on the surface. And then we had assets in place, already pre-deployed, more than 70 vessels, hundreds of thousands of feet of boom. The command center, the integrated command center the commandant referred to was already stood up, with the states involved from day one, I might say.

WALLACE: You know some critics are saying this could be Obama's Katrina.

NAPOLITANO: Yes, I think that is a total mischaracterization. I think we will be happy when all is said and done to be very transparent with all the activity that has happened really from the first hours of the explosion. And those questions will be asked and they'll be answered. But the key fact of the matter is that this has been all hands on deck, across the federal government, with the states, with BP from the day of this incident.

SALAZAR: If I may, just on that point, from day one, the president has been involved and informed and has been directing us to do everything that we can and not to spare any effort.

Your timeline that you had up there, frankly, you can go back and you can put April 22nd on there, where we were stepping on the neck of BP to do everything that it can do, because it's its responsibility. A letter from them saying what their resources were and how they were moving forward to implement the vast oil spill response plan. So from day one, we've been on top of this every minute, 24 hours a day, trying to get the situation under control.

WALLACE: Secretary Salazar, you helped develop the plan that the president announced at the end of March to expand exploration of oil and natural gas along several areas of the coastline, not just the Gulf, but also along the East Coast, parts of the eastern Gulf and also off a part of the Alaska coast. After this accident, have you changed your mind about the wisdom of that policy?

SALAZAR: There have been 30,000 wells, oil and gas wells that have been drilled just in the Gulf of Mexico alone. And currently today, 30 percent of our oil and gas resources come from the Gulf of Mexico. There is a huge economic infusion. Our economy depends on it. It had been an industry that has been conducted in a very safe manner. Blowouts occur, but these safety mechanisms have been in place.

Why this failed here is something that we are investigating and we have a joint investigation that will give us some answers. But right now, until we find out some more information, this will be something that will be evolving. And if we have to revisit what we have allowed in the deep water, we will do that, but that will be based on the best facts and the best science as we move forward.

WALLACE: Secretary Napolitano, before you go, I want to ask you about two other issues. First, this week you told Congress that the southern border is as secure now as it has ever been. But from 2000 to 2008, Arizona's population of illegals grew 70 percent, and nationally, our population of illegals grew 37 percent. Is that the kind of security you're bragging about?

NAPOLITANO: No. What I was -- obviously, it's always continuing work. But I have worked that border for years as the U.S. attorney, attorney general, governor of Arizona. I have ridden it, I've walked it, I've flown it. I know that border. And in terms of every statistical measure, there have been more resources placed on that border and fewer attempts at illegal immigration in the last year than has been the historical record.

Everything is in decline. We are getting and gaining control of that southwestern border. More needs to be done and more is being done in Arizona, which has become a particular corridor. And I understand the frustration of Arizonans with that. And we are continuing to look at Arizona. But I will tell you this -- in the end, this -- every resource that can be put at that border is being put at the border. Every security is being made. But we still need comprehensive immigration reform.

WALLACE: Finally, have you been interviewed by the president about the new open job on the Supreme Court?

NAPOLITANO: I have not talked to the president in the recent weeks about that, no.

WALLACE: Have you been told whether or not you are a candidate or whether the president, in fact, wants you to stay on as secretary of homeland security?

NAPOLITANO: You know what? Let me just say, I'm flattered to have those questions answered. As you can tell from this interview, I think I'm focused on a few other issues right now.

WALLACE: Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Salazar, Admiral Allen, we want to thank you all so much for coming in today and talking with us. We wish you all the best as you continue dealing with this terrible oil spill.

SALAZAR: Thank you, Chris.


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