CNN The Situation Room - Transcript

By:  Pete King
Date: June 7, 2006
Location: Unknown



BLITZER: All right, Mary. Thank you very much.

For more now on terror and funding, we're joined by Congressman Peter King. The New York Republican is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

What do you make of this -- I guess you could call it a cut or a reduction in some port security funding?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Well, the port security funding has gone up. I think the report there was they wanted to add more on to it. We just in the House passed the most extensive port security bill ever. It passed by a vote of 421-2.

It did increase port security funding, but I agree that more should be done. But we are putting a lot in place as far as overseas inspections, container inspections, having radiation portal monitors at the ports here in the United States when the ships arrive. So a lot of progress has been made. More has to be done. If anything good came out of the Dubai ports, it was a wake-up call on port security for many people in the United States Congress.

BLITZER: Congressman, I assume you read Michael Chertoff's -- the secretary of Homeland Security -- op-ed piece in "The New York Times" today defending his decision to reduce funding for New York City and Washington, D.C.

Among other things, he writes this -- he says, "Congress gave us about $600 million less for our grants program, including approximately $125 million less for the urban areas initiative. Still, this year New York will receive just under 18 percent of the total funds in the urban areas initiative. This falls in line with the city's average over the last three years of receiving 19 percent of the program's funds."

Basically, what he's saying, it's your fault, the U.S. Congress, for the reduction in funding for New York.

What do you say?

KING: Well, I say he's wrong. And I just came from a two-hour meeting I had with the undersecretary of homeland security, the assistant secretary, on this whole issue of funding.

First of all, there are billions of dollars in the pipeline that have not even been drawn down, have not been obligated that's available for the Department of Homeland Security. There was more than enough money in the grant system for New York to receive the money it deserved.

Michael Chertoff is trying to have it both ways here. He's trying to pin this on us, when, in fact, he's the one who made the cuts.

New York is still by far the number one ranked city in the country, but he cut our -- number one as far as risk -- but he cut our spending by 40 percent. And that can't be defended.

I have gone through every possible analysis with the people in his department. It doesn't add up. It doesn't make sense. It's wrong.

And he can't be blaming this on Congress when the fact is the only reason cuts were made or any reduction in funding was made by Congress was not because of cities like New York, because New York can spend the money, it needs the money. It's because there was so much money in the pipeline that was just sitting there. And we said use that money first on some of these other areas. That does not apply to New York at all.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence in the secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff?

KING: I know Michael Chertoff. I consider him a friend. But I'm very, very disappointed in several actions, including Dubai ports, and certainly including the funding program via -- which affects New York.

And even that 18 percent number he's using, that includes several years ago when New York -- what he did was averaged out the first three years. And the second year of that program, New York was cut incredibly.

So it makes no sense. Why have this whole income averaging thing? It should get the money it needs.

As Governor Kean said, New York is the number one risk by far. Nobody else even comes close, unfortunately, to New York when it comes to top risk. That's how the money should be allocated.

BLITZER: Seventeen people in Canada were arrested over the weekend. Terror suspicion. Some sort of plot. We're getting more details.

You came on CNN over the weekend and said that, in your words, there was a "disproportionate number of al Qaeda in Canada." That's caused somewhat of a controversy.

Listen to what the Canadian ambassador here in Washington, Michael Wilson, told me on Sunday. Listen to this.


MICHAEL WILSON, CANADIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: I disagree with what the chairman has said. I think that our immigration laws, as they are implemented, are very close in the outcomes as the United States' immigration laws. We take very seriously these issues of terrorism.


BLITZER: What did you mean, Congressman, about a disproportionate number of al Qaeda in Canada?

KING: First of all, let me say I have great regard for Ambassador Wilson, and the current Canadian government is doing an excellent job. And there is tremendous cooperation between our counterterrorism forces and their intelligence forces. So there's no problem there.

But the fact is -- and even Canada's own officials, intelligence officials have said this -- that because of their liberal asylum laws, it is much easier for someone to get into Canada. Just recently, before a senate defense committee in the Canadian parliament, you had a high-ranking intelligence officer talk about there was almost 20,000 people in the country who have not been vetted who come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East, who have not been vetted. And the fact that we have seen these large number of arrests over the weekend shows two things.

There is a large number of al Qaeda supporters in Canada. But they also have a very, very effective intelligence and police operation. But we can't deny the fact that they do have a significant number of al Qaeda supporters, and I believe, and many Canadians agree -- believe -- that it's because of the liberal asylum laws they have.

But I want to make it clear. The cooperation between the governments is extremely good. In fact, we have a number of operations going on in the United States that are being monitored because of intelligence that we've gotten from the Canadians.

BLITZER: One final question. This long border between the United States and Canada, when you add up the miles, the continental United States and Canada, plus the border along the Alaska border, what, more than 5,000 miles, have we been focusing on the wrong border as far as terrorism is concerned, namely the U.S.-Mexican border, as opposed to this relatively porous border in the north?

KING: I think we have to focus on both. Obviously, there's a great -- a great -- a much larger number of illegal immigrants coming across the southern border, but there is a risk of terrorism from the north.

Now, we have increased. I think we have tripled the number of Border Patrol agents along the northern border. I think more should be done. And that is being looked at right now by our government and by the Canadian government.

I have been in contact with the people in the Department of Homeland Security as to what's being done, and we are aware of the situation. I think more has to do done, more will be done.

And one difference, though, between Canada and Mexico is we get extraordinary cooperation with the Canadian government along the border. We get very little cooperation from the Mexican government along the southern border.

BLITZER: Peter King is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

KING: Wolf, thank you.


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