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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript: Nigeria Kidnapping


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BURNETT: All right, Nima, thank you very much. Really amazing reporting. Thank you so much for doing that. Joining me now is Republican Congressman Peter King. He chairs the Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees along with the former deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism, Juan Zarate, the first ever assistant secretary of the treasury for terrorist financing and financial crimes.

Congressman King, let me ask you this question about a swap, girls for terrorists. The Obama administration said American policy is not to negotiate with terrorists, but should they support Nigeria freeing a lot of terrorists if that's what it takes to get these girls back?

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Erin, this is one of those terribly difficult decisions, morally difficult, but I would say, no, we cannot negotiate. If it were my daughter, wife, or sister, I realize the human impact, but the fact is, once you start negotiating with terrorists, it would lead to more violence and kidnappings.

These people cannot be appeased. No, as tough as that decision is, I would say we cannot negotiate with terrorists. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into that trap, because in the end it will result in more death and carnage.

BURNETT: Do you agree, Juan?

JUAN ZARATE, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think it's a very difficult situation, as congressman mentioned. The reality is this group and other groups like al Qaeda have made millions off kidnap for ransom operations and continuing to deal with them fuels not only funding but their operations. It's a difficult balance. Certainly, the U.S. should not support that whether or not the Nigerians do, that's going to be their choice.

BURNETT: Juan, late last week we were told -- I was told at one point two weeks ago that the girls were probably broken up into smaller groups. U.S. intelligence sources are also saying that and some may have been moved across the border. Obviously, we do not know the video that I just showed, we don't know exactly when it was shot and we can't tell you for sure it was a large group of girls, although they are saying they have no reason to think it's not genuine. If it is a large group of girls, is this a sign of hope that there's so many in one place?

ZARATE: Hopeful in two ways, one, they are alive and appear to be OK for now, at least based on the video, and secondly, they are collected, they are together. And I think you're right, the concern for counterterrorism security officials is that the girls would be separated into small groups, sent across borders, to Chad, Cameroon, Niger, other places, that makes it difficult to hunt them back and have them return, so I think having them together creates an opportunity here potentially for those trying to search and find the girls.

BURNETT: Right. The U.S. still saying no Special Forces or boots on the ground. Congressman King, should the Obama administration change that, even though that could mean, and I think people would have to accept this possibility, loss of American life?

KING: Well, I think -- I don't want to advocate the use of troops. If the president decided to use Special Forces, I certainly would not oppose them. Right now our main asset is providing intelligence, providing surveillance, working with the Nigerians rather than us being involved in a Special Forces operation, but if the president did decide to do that and he thought it would work, I would certainly support him on it, but I'm not urging him to do that. I realize all the complexities involved, the dangers involved. As commander in chief, if he made that decision, I would support him.

BURNETT: You wrote a letter in 2011 saying designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization. It wasn't done until six months ago. You're among those blaming the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for this. You said this is clearly a failure of the secretary of state, but President Bush's ambassador to Nigeria said that was unfair, said I don't think it's fair and along with a good many Nigerian experts at the time, we all opposed designation. Don't elevate the group, put a bounty on this guy's head, have guys like Juan Zarate out there making sure these guys can't spend their money.

KING: I disagree with that. I strongly believe, myself, Congressman Meehan, this was bipartisan, by the way. This wasn't just Republican members of Congress saying that Boko Haram should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization. Also the Attorney General's Office, Lisa Monaco, the deputy attorney general, she wrote to the State Department saying that the position of the Obama Justice Department was.

That it should be declared that Boko Haram should be declared a foreign terrorist organization because then they could have gone after people who contributed to it and taken extra steps to dry up their funds and focus attention on Boko Haram and the fact, I give Secretary Kerry credit for doing it in 2013. We said in 2011 and twice in 2012.


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