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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: Al-Qaeda Planning Attack


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WHITFIELD: All right, Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

So, as the U.S. worries about the possibility of an al-Qaeda attack in the Middle East and North Africa, Britain, France and Germany are closing their offices in Yemen as a precaution as well.

A homeland security committee chairman, Congressman Peter King, joining me now on the phone from Seaford, New York.

Mr. King, glad you could make the time to be with us.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK (via phone): Thank you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: You have said that the evidence is very specific. Without, of course, jeopardizing intelligence, how specific is this threatening material?

KING: Well, the numbers are so big that I can't go into it other than the fact it definitely is planned a very enormous attack, a catastrophic type attack. That's probably the best way to describe it. And I can't really go any further than that.

WHITFIELD: As chairman of the homeland security committee, have you been anticipating this kind of threat particularly so close to the Benghazi attack on your marker?

KING: I'm well aware in this last several days of this, you know, specific threat probably since Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, but we have to keep in mind that especially when you're talking about al- Qaeda and the Arabian peninsula they, for a number of years, have been very aggressive as far as wanting to attack America, wanting to attack the west, and it was really, I think, only a matter of time before something like this would happen.

Now, because it's out in the open, people are talking about it. But I can assure you the intelligence committee is confident the CIA, and the DIA, homeland security, all of them, are constantly on the lookout for planned attacks such as this because this is what ultimately motivates Al Qaeda and its affiliates. So, while I was not expecting this plan in particular, anyone who is involved in this can't be surprised that an attack like this could be planned.

WHITFIELD: And so given that, you mentioned that there is so much material that comes across, you know, your purview all the time and the intelligence committee all the time, but certain decisions are made about what to make public and what to keep quiet.

Do you worry that informing possible terrorists of the closures on this Sunday of the embassies and consulates really could provide too much information to assist these potential extremists or terrorists?

KING: Yes. That is a -- it's a balance. And a decision had to be made, I assume by the state department, by the White House and by the CIA, and by the director of national intelligence as to when to go public with this. That's always the balance you have to try to strike, because when you do go public like this, you do give the enemy an indication of what we know and perhaps how we know it.

On the other hand, also, though, once it's out there, that often can cause al-Qaeda to back away. And so, at least, it gives us more time to anticipate the next attack. So, this is a constant. You can wait too long and the attack can go ahead and innocent people get killed or you could disclose it and perhaps stop the attack, but at the same time you're tipping off al-Qaeda as to some of the abilities we have. But these decisions are not easy and I'm not in any way second- guessing the administration on this.

WHITFIELD: All right, Congressman Peter King, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it.


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