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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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JOHNS: Joining us now, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Peter King of New York.

And, Mr. Chairman, off the top, how do we know this man is dead?

If the bodies were burned beyond recognition, it doesn't sound like there are any photographs.

How do we know?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Joe, I've been speaking today to top officials in the intelligence community. Obviously, in their mind, al-Awlaki was tracked, he was followed. They are convinced that he was in the vehicles that were hit. And they are so cautious, the last thing they would want to do is to come out and say that he's dead and then it turn out that he's not.

So they would have to be satisfied beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Obviously, I wasn't there. I didn't see the bodies. The people that I spoke, I trust. I trust them anyway. But in addition to that, they would not be coming out and saying this if there was even a possibility that Al-Awlaki could ever show up alive.

JOHNS: What was he doing when he was killed?

KING: Well, these are operational details I'm not going to go into. My understanding was he was in a convoy and that that was intact. But that's really as far as I'm going go to on that, other than to say that my understanding is, also, that in this operation, that the Yemenese were extremely cooperative and helpful, that this was a joint operation that we allocate the responsibility or the credit maybe one way or the other. But the fact is Yemen -- the Yemenese were very much involved.

JOHNS: I'll just ask you directly, have you personally seen any pictures from this scene in Yemen?

Is there any video or pictures that you're personally aware of?

KING: I have not seen it, but I have absolutely no doubt that he's dead based on the people I've spoken to and knowing how cautious they are and how they would not have come forward unless they were absolutely certain that he was the man.

JOHNS: Now, do you have any problem with the notion of the president of the United States ordering the assassination of an American citizen in another country?

KING: Joe, the only problem I would have is if the president had no issued that order. To me, the fact that you have a man who has American blood on his hands, a man who has sworn to kill Americans, a man who, by all our intelligence estimates and analyses, has clearly, in many ways, become the leading al Qaeda terrorist in the world. He was the one that our intelligence officials were most concerned about. No.

And the fact that he's an American citizen, to me, makes his conduit -- conduct all the more reprehensible. I fully support the president. I can be as partisan a Republican as anyone, but I'm saying on this issue that President Obama did exactly the right thing and I would give him a medal for doing it.

JOHNS: You know, a lot of people will say even in World War II, when German combatants were captured here in the United States, they were given a trial. But in this case, an American citizen was not.

KING: Joe, if we had the opportunity to capture and bring him for trial, that's one thing. There was no opportunity. You take your opportunities as you get them. And the only opportunity we had to get him was the way we did. And to me, to allow him to get away under some thought that perhaps in the future we can capture him, I mean how many Americans lives could have been lost in the meantime?

We're at war. President Obama is our commander-in-chief and I give him credit for issuing this order.

JOHNS: One last question, because this issue has certainly created so much buzz on the Internet and elsewhere. Even presidential candidate, the Republican, Ron Paul, has weighed in.

We have a graphic of what he said: "To start assassinating American citizens without charges, we should think very seriously about this."

What's your response to that? KING: Well, we did think very seriously about it. The president gave it a lot of thought. And as Fran Townsend said before, this is a process that had to work its way through, with lawyers and advisers, consultants. The president gave it a tremendous amount of thought and did what he believed he had to do and I support him issuing that order.

To me, it would have been irresponsible not to, to allow this man, who was, really, the greatest of the -- the leading recruiter that al Qaeda had, to allow him to go on continuing to recruit people to kill Americans, because we wanted to make ourselves feel good, that was absolutely wrong. You know, Ron Paul, I like Ron Paul personally. He's a friend of mine. But he also, basically he's said in the past that the U.S. brought on 9/11. And now he's saying that we have to give this serious thought.

I agree we have given it serious thought. We did. And we should be thankful the president did what he did.

JOHNS: As chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, you certainly are privy there are a lot of information.

Did you get any other information about other plots, other plans to kill Americans that al-Awlaki might have been involved in?

KING: We saw Al-Awlaki's fingerprints on a number of other plots. And let me also say, ironically enough, in late October, next month, my committee was planning on holding a hearing on al-Awlaki, tracing him back through before 9/11, right through the present and how extensively he has been involved in various plots.

So, no, there is no doubt in my mind at all that al-Awlaki was planning more operations, that al-Awlaki actually was using scientists to find ways to use more deadly devices and -- and so I would just say that this is a great moment for America and the president of the United States has every reason to be proud of himself and I'm especially proud of the men and women of our intelligence services and our Special Operations Forces.

JOHNS: Congressman Peter King of New York, the committee of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Thank you very much for coming in.

KING: Joe, thank you, as always.

Thank you.

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