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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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MATTHEWS: Mr. King, thanks for joining us.

I guess there are so many hot issues coming out of this I guess you would have to call it event in American history, the capture--or, actually, the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Do you think, after a couple of days" reflection, we should release those pictures of him after he"s been shot dead?

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Chris, I thought we should. It was a close call.

I have not seen the picture. People who have seen it have told me that it"s not that ghoulish. And to put down conspiracy theories and also to make the point emphatically that he"s dead, I thought we should.

But I"m not going to disagree with the president. He has an awful lot to consider here. My understanding is, a number of his military advisers asked him not to, because they thought it could have repercussions.

So, while I think we should, he"s the president. I"m not. And this is certainly a very reasonable call on his part, so I"m not going to object or oppose it in any way.

MATTHEWS: What do you think is the potential for actually reckless people out there, not a member of Congress, but a reckless person out there to take that picture, create some sort of virtual, you know, desecration, something that would arouse people around the billion world--billion-person Arab world, Islamic world? Are you concerned about that?

KING: Yes. You mean if the photo is released? That could happen, surely. I understand that.

And that"s why I said I--on balance, I thought it should have been released, but I fully understand why the president is not doing it. And, really, as far as I"m concerned, you know, the issue is over. I"m not going to say anything more about it. I have no reason to oppose the president.

And, again, he"s handled this perfectly up until now. And of all the aspects of the killing of bin Laden, to me, this is probably the least. So, I give the president, you know, full credit for how he"s handled this entire matter.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the danger we face in this country. You always have to be worried about retaliation at each step. It is tit for tat, as you know.

Have you gotten any word from Homeland Security, or can you--or do you have any questions yourself about the possible retaliations that might be coming in the days ahead to show that there"s still, you know, life to al Qaeda, for example?

KING: Yes. Chris, you know, that is a real concern. But here"s the thing--Al Qaeda, it"s is very difficult for them to order a quick attack from overseas. They usually take a lot of time for al Qaeda to prepare something from overseas.

What we"re more concerned would be a homegrown terrorist, a lone wolf, someone who"s already here in this country. But I can tell you, as soon as the president let it be known that bin Laden was killed, the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Forces all over the country, Homeland Security--I can tell you, here in New York, Commissioner Kelly with the NYPD, out of Nassau County where I"m from, they started ramping up immediately and they"re looking at any possible area of trouble. Security"s definitely been heightened.

And right as of this moment, as far as I know and I try to stay in constant contact with this by the hour, there are no credible threats right now.

MATTHEWS: You know, there"s a great old New York term, it"s a Yiddish term--chutzpah. And I think it was exploded again the other day when the Pakistanis complained, the generals, that we had captured Osama bin Laden, you know? And they did, in fact--they didn"t look like we were trying too hard.

What is your sense of Pakistan now as a quasi-ally? How would you square their behavior, or lack of action on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and their claim to being our ally against terrorism?

KING: Yes, Chris. It"s very difficult for them to have any credibility. Over the years, my position has been that Pakistan is strategically located. That even though our relationship was far from perfect, it was more positive than negative for us, that it was more to our advantage to keep the relationship than not.

But I tell you, after the events of this past weekend, when we found out that bin Laden was there in this outsized--oversized mansion so close to their military academy, so close to their intelligence agency, living amongst retired military and intelligence officials, that that"s basically who populates that area, it"s impossible for me to believe that somebody in the Pakistani government was not aware or didn"t facilitate it.

So, I actually met with the Pakistani chief of mission the other day and made it clear, saying as a person who wants to be a friend, that this is real crossroads. How can they keep coming to the U.S. and asking for $3 billion a year when the most wanted terrorist in the world was living right amongst them? It"s impossible. It"s impossible for me to believe that.

So, right now, I say we"re at a crossroads. I don"t want to end that relationship, but having said that, this is really the time for the president and his administration and Secretary Clinton to really put it to the Pakistanis, because I can tell you, in Congress, among very sober-minded people, serious questions are being raised. And just by coincidence, the president has scheduled a dinner at the White House last Monday for committee chairmen and their spouses, and the whole tone around that dinner, again, from very serious players, was a real concern, a real doubt about Pakistan.

So, you know, they"re very important strategically because of their location, because of the nuclear weapons they have and the past. But, anyway, right now, we"re at a crossroads.

MATTHEWS: Well, it"s great to have you back on HARDBALL.

And on a lighter note, it"s great to have you here for personal reasons because I want to remind you that we were at the little saloon in Jersey. Remember the little saloon you started your worldwide career in? HARDBALL. It"s good to have you back for the old saloon in New Jersey.

KING: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming back on.

KING: It"s great to be here.

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