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

Interview

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CROWLEY: I am joined by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King of New York and Democratic Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of California.

Thank you both for getting up early this morning. I want to, kind of, set the stage for this discussion by showing our viewers a couple of statistics. Since the second half of the Bush administration into the Obama administration, there have been a reported 302 drone strikes into northwest Pakistan, about 2,800 people killed, we are told, about 17 percent of them civilians.

Again, these are hard to keep track of; these are not exact numbers, but it's the best estimate.

Congresswoman, let me ask you, is anything about that troublesome to you? We are essentially launching these aerial vehicles and dropping or sending bombs into places -- and it's fingerprintless. The U.S. does it from some place else. Are you worried about this at all?

WOOLSEY: Well, I know I am. It's such a trend to dehumanize warfare, and it's machines and computers doing the job. You know what, candy? This is not video games. These are real people, and it's real death, and we are making real enemies around the world by continuing with our drone program.

CROWLEY: And, Congressman King, does anything about this -- you know, certainly we can't argue that we want Americans to go in and risk their lives while doing this because, you know, we want Americans protected. On the other hand, do you worry about U.S. imagery and do you worry that there's never really been much of a debate about the use of these drones?

KING: Candy, if you just bear with me for a second, because I'm on the Intelligence Committee, I can't officially acknowledge that we have a drone program. But assuming that we do...

CROWLEY: If we did?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

KING: ... accurate. I had to say that up front. No, I'm not concerned. My belief is that, when you're in war, and we are in war, the idea is to kill as many of the enemy as you can with minimal risk of life to your own people.

As far as the civilian casualties, every one of them is tragic, but the fact is, in every war, there's a large amount of collateral damage, of civilian casualties, whether it's World War II, whether it's the Korean War, and if we were using ordinary explosives, we would also have those type of civilian deaths.

To me, American lives are being saved; the enemy is being killed, we have managed -- and I give the president credit for this -- to devastate core Al Qaida, primarily because of these type of attacks which did begin in the Bush administration, particularly in the last year of the Bush administration, and President Obama has followed them through.

I'm not saying these are easy decisions to make, but life isn't easy; war isn't easy. I believe it's essential that we do complete the mission against Al Qaida, and these drones are obviously a very effective way to do it with a minimal loss of American life.

CROWLEY: Congresswoman, what worries you most? I mean, there certainly is the kind of "ick" factor when you think, wow, it just -- it does seem like a video game. It does, sort of, seem to take the -- if there is humanity in war, which I think we could probably argue, but nonetheless it does seem to, kind of, remove responsibility.

But let's say, beyond that, what worries you policy-wise about these drone attacks?

WOOLSEY: Well, Peter -- I disagree with Peter. I think the Congress has been left out in this -- of this conversation, and I think that is wrong all the way around, particularly about what is a war and what is a conflict that we haven't claimed to be a war.

But what I'd like to say my greatest concern is, you know, the united states is the superpower. We're the standard. People follow what we do. We're setting a standard for all other nations that, when they're ready and want to, if they choose, they can send drones at the united states. Why do we want to get into a world and a humanity that wants to live on earth that way? Why are we not putting our energy into a different kind of security around the world where we invest pennies on the dollar, Candy, we invest in diplomacy; we invest in helping other countries with their development needs, helping them -- when they want to -- I mean, we don't -- shouldn't impose ourselves, but help them not be angry and not need Al Qaida and want to be part of the world organization?

Because I think what goes around comes around, and those drones are going to come right back at us.

CROWLEY: And, Congressman, what do you think about that? Because that question has been raised certainly at the White House from the press corps saying, well, what if Russia suddenly decided to send drones into a place because there were terrorists that they thought were going to attack Russia? Would we be OK with that?

KING: First, let me say we never used drones before September 11th and we still got killed. We had 3,000 Americans killed. So I don't believe drones are encouraging any attacks. What encourages attacks are weakness.

And, yes, I think we have to assume that the Russians would use drones if they could, just as we had to assume during the Cold War that they would use nuclear weapons. I mean, this isn't like golf where you have a handicap and you give somebody eight strokes. The fact is we have to use the weapons that we have. And we're up against Al Qaida which is a devious, evil enemy which wants to kill Americans. I wish we could all live in a world where we could hold hands and love each other. The fact is that's not reality. We have an enemy that wants to kill us.

I live in New York. I lost over 150 constituents on 9/11. And if we can save the next 150 by killing Al Qaida terrorists with drones, then kill them. I have no compunctions about that whatsoever. And we have to assume there's always going to be an increase in weapons. This has been the history of mankind.

That's why we have to make sure our defense budget is not weakened and that we stay ahead of the enemy and that we're in a position to provide leadership. But again, this stuff about drones making enemies -- we used no drones. The only time we used weapons during the 1990s was to defend Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo and then they turned around -- Al Qaida turned around and attacked us on 9/11. There's evil people in the world. Drones aren't evil. People are evil. We are a force of good and we're using those drones to carry out a policy of righteousness and goodness.

CROWLEY: Can I ask you, Congresswoman, about the use of domestic drones, that the FAA does allow certain cities to have drones fly over for whatever reason, you know, looking for, I don't know, criminal activity, looking for traffic jams, whatever it happens to be. They're equipped with, you know, cameras and things like that, radar.

Do you have any concerns in terms of privacy here?

WOOLSEY: Well, I have great concern about privacy all over our country, not just because of drones and our loss of civil rights and civil liberties based on our need for security. I think we're giving up our security in spite of the fact that we're making people more angry at us all over the world.

And the very argument that my good colleague Peter King just gave us is what is infuriating the rest of the world. And I -- I, too, would like to hold hands and be friendly all over the world, and I know we have to be strong, but I think we can be strong with a domestic -- helping them with their policies and with diplomacy and so they don't -- we don't need to put so much of our funds into war machines and think that we're going to make friends and make this a safe world. We aren't going to. We have to -- we can be -- have tougher and tougher and tougher machines and equipment and more scary and we can just destroy our world, and -- not this year, not tomorrow, but soon.

CROWLEY: Congressman King, I just need a really quick answer from you because I'm out of time here, and that is do you think the domestic use of drones flying over cities to watch several things -- does it give you pause at all or is that OK with you?

KING: I think drones are a legitimate form of law enforcement. Having said that, privacy has to be respected. When you don't have an expectation of privacy if you're in the open -- so we're talking about crowds; we're talking about sidewalks; we're talking about people out in the open. There is no expectation of privacy there. And drones are extremely effective as far as trying to spot things that could be happening in a crowd, certainly, if a child has been kidnapped or lost, also along the border to spot illegals coming across the border, that's true.

And also, I would just say, as far as the use of drones, we have not been attacked since September 11th, and that's a lot better than holding hands.

CROWLEY: OK, that's the last word there.

Thank you so much, Congressman King, Congresswoman Woolsey. Thanks for joining us.

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