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SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It`s great to
be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: You and I have had a lot of interesting conversations over the years about national security, in part, because we have some differences of opinion on it. Did I say anything there that struck you as either misstatement of the facts or just contrary to the way that you understand?
MCCASKILL: Well, I think it`s important to point out that the enemy of today is a much different enemy than the enemy that our country worried about when we were very young, during my parent`s generation and their parent`s generation. Now, this is an enemy that`s all over the world. They have the ability to strike at us as we saw on 9/11. And so, the necessity that our government be able to have eyes and ears everywhere, learning where terrorists are.
Now, having said that, we have to marry that with our constitutional principles and make sure that we stay true to our constitutional principles. And therein lies the challenge. How do we deal with an enemy that doesn`t necessarily represent a country? It represents a philosophy. How do we deal with a group of people that are spread around the world with the technology of today, with the ability to strike it at any moment in a way that has fundamentally hurt our country?
So, I think that`s the debate that you`re referencing, and, yes, I think it`s healthy for us to have that debate.
MADDOW: I feel like the eyes and ears part of it, everybody is on board with. Like the eyes and ears, the idea of an intelligence agency does and why they have the kinds of power that they do and where policymakers disavow what they do, and so much of it is kept secret is because they are supposed to be finding out things in the world. That`s why after 9/11, for example, it was the CIA who had unarmed drones out there, not the Air Force that has them, because the CIA was out collecting information about forces in the world that might want to do us harm. I`m all for that. The thing that I felt like just started happening that we didn`t debate was the CIA being used essentially as a branch of the military -- the CIA being used for not just looking, but for killing.
MCCASKILL: Well, I really think that why I can`t go into some details here, by and large, the decisions to use drones to take out our enemies still rests primarily with our military. In fact, in Missouri, in Whiteman Air Force Base, there`s actually one day I was there and they were saying there`s some guys going to fly a mission. And it was guys going into these things that look like temporary buildings and they were flying drones in the whole effort to help along with the Turkish government, with some of the efforts we were making then as it related to the conflicts in the Middle East.
And so, there`s primarily, I think -- and I think there is cooperation. But also keep in mind that some of these drone strikes were effective and they did without harm to civilians. And sometimes with traditional warfare, it is more dangerous to innocents in the area than highly-sophisticated drone strikes.
So while we have to have the debate about drones and who`s using them, we have to make sure we stay true to our constitutional principle. We also need to know we`ve got bad guys that want to bring harm to our country. They aren`t all in uniform and they are not all on a military base somewhere.
MADDOW: With the Defense Authorization Bill getting a 98-0 vote in the Senate, what gets a 98-0 vote anymore? That`s sort of amazing to see in itself.
But looking at some of the amendments there, the passage to urge the president to speed up the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan before his
ultimately end date for the end of combat operations at the end of 2014, a
vote on somewhat controversial amendment concerning changes to indefinite
detention and so on -- I feel like some of the partisan divisions that we expect and that we remember from the George W. Bush era, in the post-9/11 fights about security and liberty, I feel like some of those partisan divisions are getting blurred and you can`t necessarily predict a person`s divisions in these debates based on their party anymore. Do you feel that, too?
MCCASKILL: I think that`s true. I think D versus R is less prominent in this space than some of the other spaces. You know, obviously, the vote we had today on the Disability Treaty was painful for many of us. That was a right wing R versus all of the Democrats in the Senate. But, you know, there are a lot of things in the Defense Authorization Bill. As, you now, we have talked about this before. I`m very proud of the sweeping contract reforms that we got included in that bill.
I hope your listeners who know the kind of money we have wasted on war
profiteering and abusive contracts in the war space, that they stay on the members of Congress to make sure it stays in the bill, because it`s not in the House version. It`s going to be a conference-able item. All these reforms and war contracting that could really make a difference going forward, that we`re holding contractors accountable to a standard that I think Americans would feel much better about.
MADDOW: As we have finished the war in Iraq and as the end game in Afghanistan is starting to become more clear, although we still don`t know the pace of withdrawal there -- do you feel like this is the time when we establish new norms for things like contracting, for things like oversight, and for things like what gets debated and what doesn`t? What`s on the president`s plate? What`s on Congress` plate moving forward? I mean, national security challenges are always going to evolve. We`re always going to have something on the horizon.
Is there a sort of template of lessons that we ought to have learned from these 12 years of war now moving forward that we should get in place now?
MCCASKILL: We need to be very careful and thoughtful about the cuts to our military, because we have to maintain readiness. But anybody who says that we can`t cut anything out of the Pentagon has not spent the time in the weeds in the Pentagon that I have. There has been a lot of money wasted through very wasteful practices, particularly in the space of contracting.
If we don`t get this fixed now, we will be right back repeating the same mistakes the next time that we find ourselves putting men and women`s lives at risk on behalf of our nation far, far away.
MADDOW: But you feel like the constructive discussions that are happening right now around the defense bill and some of the things you have worked on, you feel like it`s potentially ground to move forward?
MCCASKILL: I do.
MADDOW: Do you think a constructive work is being done?
MCCASKILL: I do. And the main thing is to not go on to the next shiny object.
MCCASKILL: We need to stay in this space, make sure we debate the issues fully, make sure we set policy clearly and then hold them accountable. Hold their feet to the fire and make sure that we don`t go back to bad habits and some of decisions you`re talking about, everyone understands what the ground rules are.
MADDOW: I think this is an incredibly important time in national security and it`s times like this when you have to actually be focused on having the best debate. Not times when things are starting, but times when things are ending.
MCCASKILL: That`s exactly right.
MADDOW: Senator McCaskill, congratulations on your win.
MCCASKILL: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: A hard fought Senate race. Nice to see you. Thanks a lot.
MCCASKILL: Nice to see you. Thank you.
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