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JOHN DICKERSON: Joining us now from New York is Congressman
Peter King, the top Republican on the Homeland Security
Congressman, how close did this suspect come to taking this
REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R-New York/Homeland Security
Committee): Oh, by all accounts, he came very close. And, you
know, earlier today Secretary Napolitano said the system worked.
The fact is the system did not work. We have to fi-- find a
bipartisan way to fix it. He made it on the plane with
explosives and he detonated the explosives. If that had been
successful, the plane would have come down and-- and we'd have
had a Christmas Day massacre with almost three hundred people
murdered, so it-- this came within probably seconds or inches of
working. And thank God, there were brave people onboard and,
thank God, that the terrorist was not able to successfully carry
out the detonation but he right to the one-yard line.
JOHN DICKERSON: The former director of the Homeland-- Department
of the Homeland Security Michael Chertoff suggested that at
airports that the screening procedures basically to k-- to stop
this kind of attack are going to have to go to either a full-
body pat down or a-- a full x-ray. Is that where you see things
REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: I think we have to head in that
direction. I-- In fact I would say right now we do need the
full-body scan, especially when you have countries like Nigeria,
which have inadequate security-- security to begin with, then
you have passengers transiting in Amsterdam and coming here.
Yes, I think we have to face up to this reality that we live in
a dangerous world where Islamic terrorists want to kill us. And,
yes, there is some brief violation of privacy with a full-body
scan. But on the other hand, we-- we can save thousands of
lives. To me, we have to make that decision and we have to come
down on the side of saving thousands of lives. And that's why I
think it's important for the President or the secretary to be
more out there and reminding the people just how real this
threat was and how deadly it is.
You know, for the first three months of this administration,
they refused to use the word terrorism. And even at the speech
of West Point, the President did not use the word "terrorism."
This is a teaching moment to use the President's term. And I
believe that he or the secretary or the vice president or the
attorney general should be out there and reminding the American
people saying this shows how deadly this enemy is. This shows
how real this threat is and why we have to do whatever we
possibly can to protect the American people.
JOHN DICKERSON: In that instance, though, Congressman, could--
could you buy the argument or what do you think of the argument
that if the President rushes out to the microphones that it, in
fact, gives the terrorists more power, that he's shaken the
entire administration into this pig-- big public display?
REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: There's no need to rush to a
microphone, but this is a President who has been on television,
made more television appearances, more news conferences than any
President in history. And to me, it would be very important for-
- in a very calm, reassuring way to tell the American people
this is what we're doing. We're on top of this. We're going to
win but this is a reminder of why we always have to be alert to
the evils of it Islamic terrorism. Instead, there's been a
virtual vacuum for the last day-and-a-half. And I'm not making
this partisan. I mean nobody was better than Bill Clinton at
addressing the American people and explaining to them what we
were facing and that's really all I'm saying. And, by the way,
let me make this clear. I am confident that the President of the
United States, as commander in chief, is doing all that he
possibly can in this instance to protect the American people.
I'm not getting into that. I'm just saying I would think that an
administration which is so quick to talk about global warming
and health care reform and the latest deal that's being made in
the Senate, somebody in the last almost forty-eight hours should
have been out there speaking to the American people and the
world to let them know that we are on top of this. We are
JOHN DICKERSON: You-- you heard my conversation with Robert
Gibbs about the specific measures the President has called for,
these two reviews both-- both about the list and then also about
the detection devices at-- at airports. Are you satisfied with
that response, that portion of the response from the
REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: Yeah. To me, the administration is
going to follow through-- through on that. I'm-- I'm confident
they will. And that the Congress is also going to hold its
investigation, the Homeland Security Committee to make sure that
all is being done to make s-- to ensure that, for instance, the
person who was on a watch list-- for instance, in this case,
Mutallab is coming out of Nigeria, which is a suspect country
anyway as far as al Qaeda. His father comes to the American
embassy on November 23rd, the State Department raises concerns
about him. When you consider the country, when you consider, you
know, information was given on him, at least he should have
gotten a secondary screening in Nigeria. Now that could have
been a failure of the system. So let's honestly address that and
admit the system did not work and find ways that we can move
people off that five hundred thousand list on to at least a
secondary screening list.
JOHN DICKERSON: But if you look at five hundred thousand people,
um, you know, one of the reasons that the lists have shrunk in
the past is that it just became untenable, just too expensive.
Delays at airports, crippled the airline industry. Isn't what
you're suggesting going to create delays and-- and financial
ruin for airlines?
REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: John, we have to find a way to take
the more obvious cases. Here you have a-- a leading banker in
Nigeria coming to the American embassy on his own.
We're not talking about a name that was found in a BlackBerry
somewhere. We're talking about a leading banker coming to the
American embassy and giving a warning or raising concerns about
his son. It's in a country where there's strong al Qaeda
presence, which does have unfortunately-- lacks airport
security. It would seem to me in that particular case alone, for
instance, that that should have gone to a-- on to some list
where he would've been at least screened in Nigeria or screened
in Amsterdam when he got there and the American government
should've been behind that.
JOHN DICKERSON: Thank you, Congressman. We're going to have to
leave it there. Thanks very much.
We'll be back in a minute.
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