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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

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CROWLEY: Joining me now are the chairmen of the Senate and House Homeland Security Committees, independent Senator Joseph Lieberman and Republican Congressman Peter King. Thank you both so much. I want to talk to you first about this breaking news we have of the former Taliban minister who had been helping with trying to bring the Taliban into the peace process is basically assassinated this morning. Congressman King, do you have any feel for how much impact this might have on U.S. efforts to get out, frankly? KING: Well, I think all of these incidents show how difficult it still is in Afghanistan, and quite frankly, I think we should not be giving these target dates for getting out. But apparently this is set now. And it just shows again how tough Afghanistan is, that we shouldn't be leaving prematurely, and there's a lot of work on the ground that has to be done, and it's a very dangerous place in the world.

But the real expert is Joe Lieberman. He spends a lot of time in Afghanistan. And I think he would agree that is really a very, very tough situation.

We made a lot of progress, especially under General Petraeus and General Allen, but more does remain to be done.

CROWLEY: Senator Lieberman, if I were to read these tea leaves, it would say to me the Taliban is not the least bit interested in peace talks.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I agree. They're not interested in genuine peace talks. I mean, we have been integrating, reintegrating lower- level Taliban who have come back over to the side of the Afghan national security forces over the last couple of years, but the people at the top of the Taliban in my opinion are not interested in reconciliation.

This is the second murder of this kind of somebody high up in Afghanistan who turned and tried to be a peacemaker. So it's obvious they don't want peace right now. And until we continue and unless we continue to put pressure on the Taliban, they are never going to come to the table and have genuine peace negotiations.

I think the important message here is to the policy makers right up to the president about the pace of withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan. Right now, we're going to take out about 30,000 that are there now by the end of this year. The big debate will be what to do with the remaining 68,000. I think General Allen, our commander in Afghanistan, has made clear that he wants to leave that 68,000 there through the end of the fighting season in Afghanistan next year, which would be through the fall or early winter.

I sure hope the president as commander in chief supports General Allen's opinion, because I think it's the right one, and the murder yesterday in Kabul makes that very clear.

CROWLEY: Congressman, let me move you on to this discovery or really sort of an intelligence victory of getting a hold of a suicide bomb, sort of the underwear bomb take two. Through the use of an undercover -- apparently a Saudi operative who was working either for the Saudis or for the CIA. Huge leak on who this guy was. You have criticized it. Where do you think the big damage is that leaks came out about how we came to have this bomb?

KING: Well, first of all, this was an extraordinary accomplishment for the intelligence services of the U.S. and other countries as well. Secondly, nothing has been declassified and nothing has been made official as to where this person was from or who he was engaged by, other than the fact that the United States was also involved.

The danger here is that because -- remember, this was more secret than any operation I'm familiar with, even more secret than bin Laden's. The speaker of the House, who is second in line to be president, was not told about it. Neither the chairman or the ranking members of the Intelligence Committees were told about it. Yet the Associated Press apparently had the entire story, and since then more and more details have come out. This caused the operation to be -- first of all, it put people's lives at risk. Secondly, it caused the operation to be cut short before it could get all the information that could have been gotten, and it also sends a signal to countries willing to work with us that we can't be trusted to keep it secret, if, in fact, we're the ones who leaked it out.

That's why I'm saying the FBI has to do a full and complete investigation, because this really is criminal in the literal sense of the world to leak out this type of sensitive, classified information on really almost unparalleled penetration of the enemy. What we were able to get in, as close as we did with AQAP, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, was unprecedented.

CROWLEY: Senator Lieberman, a quick question for you before we go to break, and that is, we see now that they've sort of upgraded the underwear bomb. And the question I think we hear from a lot of people is, are we equally upgrading our defenses here? Is the TSA up to snuff? Are we ready to take on the next level of terrorist interest in coming after the U.S.? LIEBERMAN: The answer is that we are. The amazing -- one of the amazing results of this courageous and brilliant counterterrorism operation was that we not only stopped a planned terrorist attack on a U.S. airplane, but we got the device. We got the bomb. And the FBI has gone over it, and we have a very clear idea now of how they have changed their tactics.

The good news is since the underwear bomb attempt a few years, we've changed our defenses. And the odds are pretty good that our systems, multi-layered as they are, would have detected this device before the individual carrying it could have gotten on a plane.

But now we know what this device looks like and how they've changed it exactly. We assume there are others out there like this, and we're going to alter our defenses to meet the new threat. So the answer is yes, TSA and all of our intelligence services deserve a lot of credit, and our defenses are getting higher than ever.

CROWLEY: Which is good news I think for all of us. Stand by, both of you, for a minute. Congress is getting an update on the Secret Service sex scandal. We'll get a preview.

And later we remember the man who never set out to write children's literature, but ended up revolutionizing it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We are back with independent Senator Joseph Lieberman and Republican Congressman Peter King.

Senator Lieberman, you are about to get or maybe already have the answers to a lengthy questionnaire you sent to the Secret Service, stemming from the prostitution scandal in Colombia. What is there still that you don't know that you need to know?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I think the Secret Service has done a really thorough job in investigating what happened in Cartagena, and Director Mark Sullivan -- and, of course, they've got a greater motivation than anybody because of their pride in the agency and how upset they are about what happened -- but our committee -- I met with Director Sullivan during last week, and we're going to hold a public hearing. I haven't announced it, but first I'll announce it this morning. On May 23rd, at which we're going to have Director Mark Sullivan of the Secret Service and the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Charles Edwards.

So two kinds of questions. One is, is the inspector general satisfied with the investigation of what happened at Cartagena that the Secret Service did? Secondly, were there indications before the Colombian scandal of behavior by Secret Service agents off duty, on assignment, that should have been a warning that this was coming? And then, third, what are you going to do, Director Sullivan, to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again?

So this is really a heartbreaking incident, and really a dangerous incident, and we really have got to make sure it never does happen again.

CROWLEY: Congressman, let me ask you. The point No. 2 from Senator Lieberman goes at this question of the culture of the Secret Service. That is, is this something that sort of happens and was winked at, or people looked away from it? Are you convinced that the Cartagena -- you know what you need to know about the Cartagena scandal. Are you equally concerned about the so-called culture issue in the Secret Service?

KING: Well, we've certainly looked into that and looked carefully at what supposedly happened in El Salvador, and I'm sure there have been incidents over the years. But I feel fairly confident in saying this, it's not part of the culture. I've spoken to people in this administration, previous administrations, who worked closely with the Secret Service. They were very surprised by this. And it was -- I've spoken with retired Secret Service agents as well. And again, I believe this was the exception. I don't believe it was tolerated. I have known Mark Sullivan for a number of years, and I just think the way he has carried out this investigation has been very forward, from what we've been able to -- first of all, working closely with the Secret Service, but also using our own sources -- it seems that everything that the Secret Service is saying about what happened is what happened as we compare it with other sources and the other information we're getting.

I can say, for instance, the other day we got a call -- I got a call -- my office got a call from the lawyer from the prostitute, Ms. Suarez (ph) involved, asking to come and meet with me in Washington. We're not going to do that. I think that would just add to a circus atmosphere. I think that whatever has to be done should be done, the way Joe Lieberman is doing it, the way I'm trying to do it.

This is a very, very outstanding agency, the Secret Service. We have to not tear down their reputation while getting at the truth of what happened.

CROWLEY: A phone call you never thought you would be getting as a congressman, I'm sure.

LIEBERMAN: I haven't gotten that call yet, Candy.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Senator Lieberman, thank you both so much. Happy Mother's Day to the women in your lives.

LIEBERMAN: Happy Mother's Day to you, Candy.

KING: Happy Mother's Day to you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

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