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CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees - Transcript

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COOPER: Well, Congressman Pete King of New York, whom you just saw, is asking the Justice Department to investigate "The New York Times." And

I spoke with the Republican congressman earlier today.


COOPER: Congressman King, what -- what do you hope to achieve with today's resolution?

KING: Well, the purpose of the resolution is to put Congress on -- on record being absolutely opposed to the leaks that were done, and also calling on the media to realize, you know, the damage that's caused to the United States, to our national security, by what I believe is a reckless disregard for homeland security and national security priorities.

COOPER: "The New York Times"' executive editor, Bill Keller, defended the paper's decision. And he said this: "I think it would be arrogant for us to preempt the work of Congress and the courts by deciding these programs are perfectly legal and abuse-proof, based entirely on the word of the government."

Why should "The Times" and "Wall Street Journal" and "The L.A. Times," and anyone else for that matter, accept the government's word?

KING: Well, by their own analysis, "The Times" has, first of all, acknowledged that the program is working, the program has been effective, and the program is legal. And, in time of war, I don't know what purpose it served by disclosing that, when "The Times" itself is not alleging any type of illegality.

And when you have people, not just the government, also people like Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, Congressman Jack Murtha, an anti-war Democrat, coming forward, to me "The New York Times," in time of war, owes a certain deference, a certain presumption of being right, to the government in that instance.

COOPER: Do you feel, though, that -- that real damage has been done? I mean, you have this White House former counterterrorism official, Roger Cressey, saying that, you know, the -- the White House is overreaching when they say that "The New York Times" committed a crime against the war of terror, that it's been in the public domain before.

There was this U.N. report. You go on to a U.N. Web site, you can read about this. You can even read about the -- the SWIFT program. And the Bush administration has repeatedly talked about monitoring financial records of terrorists. Wasn't this information already out there?

KING: First of all, "The New York Times" can't have it both ways. They can't say they had to go public with this because it was so secret, and, then, at the same time, say there's no problem because everybody knew about it. So, you know, they're -- they're being totally contradictory in what they're saying.

But the fact is, al Qaeda did not know the full extent of what we had done as far as the SWIFT program. They were not aware of the full extent of it. Obviously, they knew that we were trying to crack down on terrorist financing, but not the extent to which we were. Any doubt they have, now "The New York Times" has removed that. You should never let your enemy know any more than they absolutely should know.

COOPER: Why are the Republicans focusing so much on "The New York Times" and not "The Wall Street Journal"?

KING: Well, for one thing is, they're repeat offenders. They're recidivists. They're serial criminals on this.

I mean, back in December, what they did to me was totally wrong. They have done it again. And, also, on this, as we understand it, certainly, as I understand the facts right now, it was "The New York Times" that went with it first.

But, having said that, I think that the attorney general should go after those who leaked this. And, to do that, he should bring in the reporters for "The New York Times," "The L.A. Times" and "The Wall Street Journal," put them in before the grand jury, ask them who their sources were. And, if they refuse to disclose them, they should cite them for contempt and put them in jail.

COOPER: There are those, though, who -- who simply do not believe this administration much longer, or -- or who gave them the benefit of the doubt after 9/11 and -- and feel like that there is this constant state of war that -- that really has no end in sight. And -- and one can cite the war on terror forever as a justification for -- of an ever -- of an ever-more powerful executive branch, and -- and there are those who argue that -- that the executive branch in past cases has overstepped their bounds, so why shouldn't the media, why shouldn't "The New York Times," "The Wall Street Journal," you know, be a watchdog on -- on executive power?

KING: First of all, nobody elected them to anything.

Secondly, this is a program that, by all accounts, is legal and is effective. Now, at least back in December, with the NSA terrorist surveillance, "The New York Times" could make the argument that they thought it was illegal. No one is saying -- no one credible is saying that this is illegal.

So, to me, this was clearly a gratuitous shot by -- you know, by "The New York Times" at the Bush administration, and it just, to me, was irresponsible.

COOPER: Congressman Peter King, appreciate you joining us. Thank you.


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