CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript - Israeli Attack on Syria


By:  Pete King
Date: May 5, 2013
Location: Unknown


CROWLEY: Welcome back. You are now looking at new video in to CNN showing the aftermath of an overnight attack into Syria. Syria's deputy foreign minister tells CNN the attack came from Israeli rockets and amounts to a declaration of war. Huge explosions rocked the Damascus suburb for hours. The Syrian says they will retaliate in their own time and way.

With me now is Congressman Peter King, he's chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on counter intelligence terrorism. He's also a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Thank you so much, congressman. I want to begin with Syria, because just when you think could it get more violent, could it get more chaotic, it does. So, my question to you is whether it is time for the U.S. to directly arm specified rebels.

KING: Candy, I have real concerns. The Reason i say that is that so much time has gone by, and unfortunately, to a large extent, al Qaeda elements have a lot of control within the rebel movements. My concern is that, by arming the rebels, we could be strengthening al Qaeda. So, whatever arming we do -- and obviously, Assad is evil.

And everyone is interested that he go -- but if we are going to arm the rebels, we have to make sure that those arms are not going to end up in the possession of al Qaeda supporters nor at the end game is al Qaeda going to be in a position to take over this movement, because --

CROWLEY: That's a pretty high bar, right? I mean, we put weapons into countries a lot and don't know where they're going to end up. Are you saying that basically it's just a bad idea for the U.S. to directly arm rebels?

KING: I'm saying that unless we know who exactly who they're going to -- generally who they're going to, it can be very counterproductive, which is why I believe the president turned down a proposal by General Petraeus and Secretary Clinton last year because he wouldn't be sure where those weapons are going. Hopefully, we've been looking at this carefully, and we have a better feel now, a better understanding of where the weapons will be going, but until then, I'm very concerned that we're just replacing one terrible dictator with a terrible ideological movement, which is aimed at our destruction.

CROWLEY: Let me move you now to the latest news out of the Boston bombings, which is that two foreign -- two students here on student visas, were one of them at least was allowed back in the country when, in fact, his student visa was no longer valid because he was no longer in school. The same holds true for another foreign student, although, he did not leave the country.

So, what we have here as far as I understand that is a customs service who brought somebody in because, for all they knew, this visa they were looking at was valid, but there is information available that it was not. And I think the question is how is it possible that the front line people at the border of the U.S. essentially don't have information when visas become invalid?

KING: First of all, there should be a way to correct this. Now, the problem they will tell you is there are 850,000 student visas, and there's an I-20 form which certifies whether or not that person is still in compliance with the requirements of the visa, whether or not he's still a credited (ph) student, and unfortunately, there's not appear the technology to marry them up, which I think is inexcusable 11 years after --

CROWLEY: Seriously?

KING: September 11. That is one of the reasons you'll be given. Having said that, the secretary of Homeland Security and the department has said that starting almost immediately, every effort has to be made so that every student coming in now is going to be -- everyone coming in with a student visa, my understanding is going to be stopped and checked and examined at the airport, which could cause longer lines. I think that's something we have to do to --


CROWLEY: Not all of those students on that list are in violation of, you know, their student visas. So, it would just seem to me that it would ping somewhere, and the fact that the people who are in charge of letting people in or out of the country don't have access to that information seems to me kind of a government-wide failure, because you've been on the Homeland Security Committee.

I mean, isn't what customs knows and what it doesn't know sort of a part of trying to keep the country safe? It just seems like a sort of an across the board failure to even see that this was a problem.

KING: It was going to be a problem, and you have customs which is CBP customs and border protection, you have ICE, Immigrations and Custom Enforcement. Each of them has a separate -- one was the I-20 form, which shows whether or not the student is in compliance, and the other has the student visa. And Homeland Security should have been working more effectively toward making this technologically feasible.

Same with the visa exit. This has not been done technologically. It has to be done -- it is finally going to be done, but in the interim, it is going to cause some delays at the airport because the person at the airport is not going to know for certain whether or not that person is in compliance. That is going to be the short-term delay, but it has to be done.

CROWLEY: Yes. Probably should have been done like years earlier.

KING: I agree.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, you are having a hearing in your committee about the Boston bombings. What do you want answered? What don't you know that you need to know?

KING: The new chairman, Mike McCaul, has scheduled his hearing. As far as I know, it's going to be the first hearing on Capitol Hill. My concern, Candy, is that when the FBI was told by the Russians to look into the older brother, they may have done the best they could under the guidelines they had available to them, but how can you determine, effectively determine, whether or not a person has become radicalized if you don't talk to people in his mosque, talk to his imam, because this is a radicalization stemming from the perversion of religion.

And to me, because of political correctness, I understand the FBI was not able to talk to anyone in the mosque to find out whether or not there were any conditions to lead them to believe that he was radicalized. Also, did they discuss it with the Boston police? Who would have better knowledge of what's going on on the ground than a local police force?

That's why in New York, we have a thousand police officers working on counterterrorism. And, Commissioner Kelly is not afraid to be politically incorrect. He does what has to be done to find out what's going on in the community.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you. Do you expect that there will be more arrests? Are there others out there that you believe are subject to arrest at this point?

KING: Well, I'm not -- this is not inside information. Just looking at this, generally, it's still impossible (ph) for me but not impossible. It's very difficult to believe that these two could have carried out this level of attack with this level of sophistication and precision acting by themselves, either without training from overseas or having at least facilitators here at home.

It's just, again, to have two bombs that went off almost perfectly, unfortunately, simultaneously, then there was a third one which also worked and the explosives, all that large amount of precursors. No, I think there had to be assistance, and that's why the FBI, I think, is going after this so vigorously and effectively. CROWLEY: And can you tell me, there are also going to be some hearings into Benghazi and what happened there, not your committee, it's Chairman Issa's committee. What questions do you have remaining about what happened in Benghazi, either the lead-up, the incident itself in which four Americans were killed or the aftermath? What's your main question?

KING: Main question, I would have, still goes back to the talking points as to why they would change, who changed them, and how does that relate to whether or not there was any element of a cover-up here, that the state department was asked to provide more security, did not provide it, and after the fact, come up with this cover story about a video and did not want to go into the fact about why there was not enough security there.

And, what are we going to do in the future? Because we have outposts around the world which vulnerable to an attack. What are we going to do to ensure that they have this security, and what is the chain of command going to be from those asking (ph) the security, and who makes the decision in Washington to whether or not to give them that security?