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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is President Obama right in not releasing the death photos of bin Laden?

KING: You know, I have not seen the photo. I've spoken to people who have and they say that it's not that gruesome. And I think to put down the conspiracy theories, it would probably would have been better to release it.

But I will defer to the president. I'm not going to oppose his decision. He is a lot more in front of them than I would. And he has to take a lot more into account. Again, I think it was a close call, because I do know there were people in the administration who thought it should be released. But only the president has everything in front of him. And he has to factor in, you know, for this result in uprisings or attacks upon Americans.

Again, I -- I think, there is a concern that conspiracy theorists will say we're hiding something. But again, I am not going to oppose the decision. I -- I will support the president on it.

BLITZER: The -- the administration -- the Obama administration now says bin Laden was unarmed, did not fire a weapon when he was killed.

Do you believe there was ever any intention to bring him back to the United States, to Guantanamo Bay, to a court in the United States, to ever bring him back alive?

KING: Yes, my -- my understanding is that I -- and I believe them -- is that the intention was to bring him back alive if at all possible, but not to put American forces at any kind of risk. And there certainly was -- there were weapons in the room. This was happening very, very quickly. You know, those SEALs, on the spot, had to make a very, very quick decision.

No, but I have no reason to doubt that the orders from the president to bring him back alive if possible. But I also respect the president in saying that these troops should not put themselves at any type of risk.

I have -- from all that I've seen -- and I've gotten pretty extensive briefings on it -- I have no reason to question any part of the attack whatsoever.

BLITZER: Do. You believe that high elements of the Pakistani military, the intelligence service, the government, knew bin Laden was hiding out in that compound in Abbottabad?

KING: Wolf, I have to believe that somebody in the Pakistani government, someone in the intelligence agency, someone had to be facilitating this. Whether or not the government officially knew about it, that I can't say. I think it's too early to tell. But just, you know, the rules of probability that you could have a facility such as that, located so close to an ISI headquarters, to the leading military academy in the country, in an area where that structure was so out of proportion to everything else, I think we have to assume that someone knew. And it's really -- right now, the burden is on the Pakistanis to prove that they were not complicit.

BLITZER: Are they cooperating in terms of allowing the U.S. access to the interrogation of individuals who were picked up at that compound and now are in their custody? KING: I know we've requested it. I don't know exactly how much cooperation we're getting. And I really don't want to go any further than that.

BLITZER: On the sensitive issue on whether the enhanced interrogation techniques played any role in leading to the death of bin Laden, I interviewed the president's deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough, yesterday. And he says the answer is absolutely no -- no role whatsoever.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENIS MCDONOUGH, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This whole idea about somehow whether EITs played into that, I think, is just not consistent with the facts, and, also, a little bit of a sideshow, as far as I'm concerned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: EIT, the -- it means enhanced interrogation techniques. Some call it torture. Others cite the waterboarding.

You believe that they did play a role. Explain.

KING: I -- I know they did. I've spoken to people who were involved. I -- everyone I've spoken to who is in position to know has confirmed that the enhanced interrogation did lead to significant information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and from al-Libi. And they were the two first major steps on this long road to getting bin Laden.

Now, a lot happened between then and now. But the initial information, the key information and what started this entire process of looking for the couriers came from enhanced interrogations. And I can tell you, I have not spoken to anyone who was involved in it, anyone in the CIA today, who is denying that -- either then or now is denying it -- that I've spoken to. And I've gotten, I believe, very good information from very significant sources.

BLITZER: Because what our own Gloria Borger has reported and has learned is that the initial tip about the nickname of the so-called courier that eventually led to the -- the detection of where he was hiding bin Laden and his -- and his death, that came from another detainee, not necessarily Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or al-Libi. It came from someone else. And it's unclear whether that other detainee was subject to the enhanced interrogation techniques.

KING: Well, I'm -- I'm talking about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and I'm talking about al-Libi and the information they got from them. Now, in some cases, Khalid Sheikh --

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt for a second --

KING: -- yes --

BLITZER: -- Congressman --

KING: -- sure.

BLITZER: If I may, because what she is learning, Gloria, is that the -- they both tried to lie about the nickname -- about the name of this courier. They tried to dissemble. They tried to get the U.S. authorities to move in a different direction. That was seen as an ah- ha moment, to a certain degree, because they were lying and the U.S. knew they were lying.

KING: Right. But here's the point, Wolf. They were not talking at all until they went through the enhanced interrogations. If they had not had the enhanced interrogation techniques, they would not have said anything.

So then when -- after they were broken, if you will, and they began to talk, they lied. But the fact that they lied, they would not have been not talking at all if they had not gone through the intent -- enhanced interrogations.

So if there had not been the intent -- enhanced interrogation techniques, which including waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, they would not have testified at all, they would not have spoken at all, they would not have been put in a position where they had to lie. And that's the significance.

If they remained silent, there would have been absolutely no information at all.

So clearly -- and I can tell you, this from talking to people at the highest levels -- they said that they would not have gotten the information with the enhanced interrogation techniques of those two individuals.

BLITZER: Congressman Peter King of New York, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

Thanks very much.

KING: Wolf, thank you.

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