CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Pete King
Date: May 7, 2012
Location: Unknown

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Congressman Peter King is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. He's been briefed on the details of the plot and just joins us right now on the phone.

Congressman King, what's the latest that you can tell us?

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Anderson, see, I discussed this with Secretary Napolitano and also John Brennan, the president's homeland security adviser.

Basically, as you said, this is a non-metallic device. It was intended to be put on an American-bound airline. It never made it to the airline. It's right now, as you said, being tested and analyzed by the FBI. Obviously, a concern would be that being non-metallic as to whether or not this could evade security in our airports.

So that's a real concern. Also, this is an ongoing operation. This particular part of it occurred about some time last month, some time in April. But it's not over as far as the operation itself, which is why you're seeing very few details being given out.

COOPER: And, obviously, the questions, use your judgment as what you can say or will say. Is it known who made this bomb? Bomb-makers tend to have a certain signature. There are certain bomb-makers particularly in Yemen who are well-known. Is it known who made this?

KING: There are two things I can say.

One is that the person who had the bomb, exact language I was told is that we no longer have to be concerned about him, number one. And number two, you saw there was an attack on a AQAP leader in Yemen over the weekend. And that is related to this whole operation. But other than that, I really can't go.

COOPER: There's a type of explosive, PETN, which is what was used I believe in the attempted underwear bombing of that plane in Detroit. Is it similar to PETN?

KING: That, I can't go into. All I can say is, it's non- metallic and the FBI bomb experts are analyzing it right now. And this is -- again, this was something very much cause for concern.

And it's probably, Anderson, one of the most tightly held operations I have seen. I can tell you myself and no other member of Congress knew anything about this, including me, until this afternoon. And that's unusual. It also appears somehow this was leaked, because I don't know what your sources are telling you, but if you were going around this afternoon, very few people knew anything about it, even those in prominent positions, people in the intelligence community.

And it seems as if the administration was playing catchup with it this afternoon as far as getting everything out. And I can tell you that I have spoken to other congressional leaders and people in position who almost are briefed, and they knew nothing about it until this afternoon either.

So something with the timing here, it raises some questions.

COOPER: What do you mean? Raises what questions, do you think?

KING: Well, as why it came out this afternoon, and such a tightly held operation, if it was leaked, how was it leaked and why was it leaked?

Again, I have been involved in a number of these and I have seen and observed a number of these tightly held operations before. I never saw one that was so closely held and then seem to be come out all at once.

And the administration this afternoon and top people in the various intelligence agencies were really not in any kind of a position to talk about it. They seemed taken somewhat by surprise. And also from talking to other key Democrats and Republicans in Congress, they felt they were caught totally off guard today. And that's unusual.

Even with the bin Laden killing, there were members of Congress who were briefed before it happened.

COOPER: So, do you think there was some political reason for if it was in fact leaked out and if it was leaked by someone in the administration, there's some political reason for that?

KING: Anderson, I really don't want to get into as far as administration as to who did it or whatever. It could have be any -- it could have been just somebody who had knowledge of what was happening. COOPER: OK.

KING: I'm not trying to bring politics into this at all. I was just saying that whether it's somebody in the intelligence community or whatever, I think it's important, if it was a leak, we find out who did it, because there's such sensitive information here. And we had sensitive sources to get it from.

It's risky if something like that is leaked out in an unplanned way, and that seems to be what happened here. I could be wrong. But from the key people I have spoken to this afternoon, they seem to have that impression too.

COOPER: Are you pleased with the intelligence that you have heard so far in terms of how this person, how this device was apparently apprehended? I mean, does it tell you that things are -- that there's a good safety net out there?

KING: Yes. There's two things.

The short thing, one is outstanding work. Our intelligence agencies and the laser defense we have set up after 9/11, this -- from all I have seen, this operated at 1000 percent. And everyone involved in it deserves tremendous credit. This was a key victory for us.

It also reminds us, though, that this war's not going to end in Afghanistan. This is -- al Qaeda has metastasized and morphed, and they are constantly attempting to find new ways at get at us. And they have very skilled scientists and other people with advanced degrees who are working on a regular basis to try to get ahead of us.

Every time we think we have them, they come up with something new. And they don't stop. And if this had been a success -- well, I'll tell you this. I was talking to someone today who was very much involved in it saying if this had happened prior to 9/11, there's no doubt at all this would have been a success. We would have had hundreds of Americans killed.

COOPER: And again I don't want to say anything inappropriate, but if this is a non-metallic device, as you have said, our -- I mean, metal detectors at airports from my understanding cannot detect this, correct?

KING: I don't want to get into that, other than to say that TSA would be putting in various components to try to stop it. But that's again what the bomb experts are looking at right now.

COOPER: All right, Congressman Peter King, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you very joining us.

KING: Thank you, Anderson.

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