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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview With Stephen Hadley, Ali Errishi; Interview With Bill Richardson, Lamar Alexander; Interview With Congressman Peter King, Congressman Keith Ellison
Aired March 6, 2011 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Reality on the ground points to a long battle between determined Libyan rebels and an entrenched dictator. A sharp contrast to U.S. rhetoric this week, demanding a quick end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have joined the Libyan people in demanding that the Gadhafi must go, now without further violence or delay.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The violence must stop. Moammar Gadhafi has lost legitimacy to lead and he must leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: This morning the mercurial Libyan leader seems prepared to kill as many people as he needs to to stay in power.
Today, Libya in chaos with former national security officer Stephen Hadley and former Libyan minister of state Ali Errishi, one of the first to call on Gadhafi to step down.
Then as Republican presidential hopefuls position themselves for 2012, two men who have been there and done that: Senator Lamar Alexander and former governor Bill Richardson.
And controversial hearings on homegrown terrorism with committee chairman Republican Peter King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're talking about a radicalization in this country which is linked to an overseas enemy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: And Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim American.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLISON: And singling out one community is the wrong thing to do. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley. And this is State of the Union.
Today in Tripoli the streets were filled with pro-Gadhafi demonstrators celebrating what they believe to be control in rebel controlled cities. But despite the government's claims, there are reports the opposition forces still hold those cities. Joining us from now Tripoli is CNN's Nic Robertson.
Nic, I think a week ago we all would have bet that Moammar Gadhafi was a short-timer. It now looks like we're in for a long haul, possibly civil war. Is that a correct assessment of the situation?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That looks like the way it's going. He's sort of found his feet, his government has found its feet, they got control of the city we saw it Friday when the tiny anti-government protests here were put down pretty quickly. Gadhafi's big speech earlier in the week, two-and-a-half hours of how he's not stepping down. He's going to be in it for the long haul. Friday night his son Saif al-Gadhafi, the strategy he laid out is there will be compromise and reform but not until the country is united. And they're going to push ahead and fight for that.
I think behind the scenes, from what I'm told, they'll fight -- the government will fight for a number of cities and force the rebels to negotiate over Benghazi to avoid big blood shed. But yes, this is settling in for a protracted battle. The government here really seems to be digging in and has found its feet.
CROWLEY: Nic, we have seen a number of western nations with the U.S. certainly prominent among them, saying we're on the side of the rebels and Gadhafi must go. What is the drawback now that it's looking like Gadhafi going is not something that's going to happen any time soon?
ROBERTSON: You can get into a long, protracted, drawn out fight that begins to pretty quickly look like a civil war. It's a very tribal society here. The government believes it's got some pretty significant and large tribes. Some tribes here, the large ones have up to a couple hundred thousand people in them. The government believes it's got those on its side. And if necessary, if the army can't do the job, then undoubtedly it's going to call on those resources.
It would look like a very big blood bath. And if the rebels keep fighting and if the west were to support the rebels in that fight, then perhaps it would make the fight last longer, which is going to affect oil output here, which is going to affect global oil prices, it's going to hurt people in their pockets. And this is potentially where it's going.
What the cause set for right now doesn't seem to allow for some way to try and force these two sides to build bridges and get into dialogue, which this country can actually do before it gets into a whole lot of blood shed.
CROWLEY: So, Nic, it seems to me the only way Gadhafi would quickly go would be someone from his inner circle that would turn against him. Are there rumors of that? I mean, I know that Libya is like a lot of Middle Eastern countries where there's a lot of rumors that float around. But what is the possibility of that? This seems like a lot of family around him unlikely to turn against him. ROBERTSON: They say there are many benefits from trying to find a way around. They have Gadhafi overthrown, which they say is unlikely. The military isn't strong enough here. This isn't a country like Egypt where the military is strong enough to twist the president's arm and force him out of office or in Tunisia where it was a similar scenario -- the army told the president we're not going to back you. He had to go. It's not the way it's going to happen here. It's unlikely to have somebody go in the palace compound and put a gun to Gadhafi's head and tell him the military is telling you to step down. So that potential here really is for a long, drawn out war, unless you can get this middle ground position.
CROWLEY: CNN's Nic Robertson for us in Libya. Thanks so much, Nic. Appreciate it.
Here now to talk about the situation in Libya, Stephen Hadley, who was national security adviser for President George W. Bush, and Dr. Ali Errishi who resigned two weeks ago as the Libyan minister of immigration and expatriates.
Let me ask you just as an opener, can the two of you agree that this is not a man who is willing to leave and he's willing to do anything including mass killings of his own people to stay in power?
ERRISHI: Oh, I have no doubt about that. This is a man who has shown that there's only one choice for Libyan people. Either I rule you or I kill you. So, it's basically, there's no middle ground. And it is him that consistently said there's no middle ground.
And one of those who in the call for reforms, as well as my good friend, who is now the chair of the transitional national council, the good judge and good friend Musouf al-Jalid (ph) -- who was also the minister of justice in the government. And a call for reform and compromise and dialogue and opening up to the rest of the world was made and we answered the call in the spirit of compromise. But those people know their compromise. It's basically -- it's either my way or no way.
And I wish that there's no one who entertain that there would be any room for negotiation.
CROWLEY: Stephen, do you agree? He would rather have his country sort of leveled than give up power?
HADLEY: He would. He has lost legitimacy. It's precisely for that reason that he has to go. The concerns we're worried about, about the humanitarian crisis and the killing, they won't stop until he goes. And we can talk a little bit about what we can do to push him. CROWLEY: I want to ask you both to stand by because we have to take a quick break. But when we come back, we will talk about the possible next moves for Gadhafi and the United States.
CROWLEY: We are back with former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and former Libyan Immigration Minister Ali Errishi.
Before we go any further, this is a bad guy, we get it. He's, you know, bombing and killing his own people. And yet both of you willing had dealings with him. You as minister. And you were part of the Bush administration when it opened relationships with Moammar Gadhafi. Why? I mean, you know, we've know he has been a bad guy for four decades, so why deal with him?
HADLEY: Well, it was a very difficult decision, but what we got for being willing to resume relations with Libya was that he gave up his weapons of mass destruction, his nuclear program, his chemical weapon program. That's all -- all that hardware is now in the United States.
He also provided compensation to the victims of terror. He got out of the terror business. It was a difficult decision.
CROWLEY: Did he?
HADLEY: Yes, he pretty much did. We also urged him to reform. It turned out to be a fool's errand, as we saw. But I think the wisdom of what we did is shown by the fact that think about if this megalomaniac now had chemical weapons in his possession and had the option of using those against the Libyan people?
So I think in retrospect getting rid of those chemical weapons, getting him out of the weapons of mass destruction business was a good deal.
CROWLEY: Dr. Errishi, you worked for the man since 2006. Why would you work for a megalomaniac capable of killing your countrymen to stay in power?
ERRISHI: I did not work for him. I worked for the Libyan people. We wanted to open our country to the (INAUDIBLE) world. I contributed in trying to saying that the relationship between the U.S. -- you, Canada, and Libya. We thought that this will give Libyans a chance to see the rest of the world. I have no regrets.
Had we not opened the country a bit, our young people would have had no access to the Internet, to Facebook, to Twitter, to satellite TV. We sort of put our finger on the pulse of our people. And there was a need for reform. And I'm a principled pragmatist. I've never, ever compromised my principles. I challenge anybody to show anything. That I praised nothing but my country and my people.
So, I had no ideological or strategic bond to the regime. And I actually pretty much was resigned before I resigned. I was spending most of my time here in the States.
CROWLEY: I want to talk a little bit about what the U.S. needs to do. And I want to start -- kick it off by playing something that President Obama said this week about military options.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: With respect to our willingness to engage militarily, when I've instructed the Department of Defense, as well as our State Department, and all of those who are involved in international affairs to examine is a full range of options, I don't want us hamstrung.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Stephen, you were President Bush's top national security adviser. If you were is sitting there now, what would the U.S. be doing?
HADLEY: Well, I think President Obama's statement was very important because he said that Gadhafi needed to go, that he had lost his legitimacy, he turned on his own people, and he needed to go.
CROWLEY: Can I ask you...
HADLEY: That was a very important statement.
CROWLEY: ... if there's a danger to that? I don't mean to interrupt you, because I want you to finish your thought...
CROWLEY: But while you're doing that, isn't there a danger to the president of the United States coming out and going, this guy has to go, and then we sit back and it doesn't look like he's going to go.
HADLEY: Well, I think we don't sit back. That's the point. And there's discussion of these military options and we can have the conversation, but I think between the statement that the president made, which was a good statement, and military options, there's a lot greater scope for our diplomacy.
I think, for example, we could consider a statement now saying that we're looking past Gadhafi, we're going to help the Libyan people build a regime in which they can be proud. I'd like to see us take this money that we have frozen, I think it's $15 billion, and say, we will start creating a trust for the rebuilding of Libya.
And we could start calling for tribes, the military, other groups to join -- to turn against Gadhafi, join in building the new Libya, and then make the point that they'll be held responsible for his crimes if they don't.
And if that call were echoed by the international community, private messages were sent to the military and tribes, it's time to switch sides, and we could -- I think we'd begin to build some momentum. You could then talk about withdrawing our representation of the government, maybe recognizing the Libyan National Council, and maybe even covertly starting to get some weapons to the rebels so they can create their own no-fly zone rather than the United States have to do it.
My point is, there's a range of diplomatic options that really can turn up the heat. But I think that the American president needed to be clear that we understood this situation is not going to be resolved and the killing is not going to stop until Gadhafi goes.
CROWLEY: Gadhafi is gone. So, I think one of the problems that came up this week when people were talking about the military option or arming -- helping arm the rebels, whatever it happens to be, is that who is -- I mean, who do you send them to? Where is the leadership in this rebellion? What happens if this guy goes? Can you speak to that?
ERRISHI: There are two elements that are missing. I think behind every policy there must be a set of principles. The first one, I don't know whether some of the decision- and policy-makers think of this, that there's a moral component, a humanitarian component to it. That this is...
CROWLEY: Humanitarian aid has to start at some point.
ERRISHI: Not humanitarian in the sense that medicine and food, but stopping the killing. And you cannot stop the killing as long as he is in power. So, there's that moral component that justifies what I call support.
I mean, people do not like the word intervention. You know, also another component that our -- you know, the president or the secretary of state talk about the Libyan people as friends. We are an independent and proud people, but we are not too independent -- I mean, to have friends, and we're not too proud to ask them for help in times of need.
The Libyan people actually flatter the United States. I mean, who they think that -- where should we go? I don't want to mention any other nations. This is the only nation that people think that...
CROWLEY: Can actually do something?
ERRISHI: Do something, and also believe in those values of self- determination, freedom, the rule of law. And so, it's -- I mean, there should be some limit to geopolitical cynicism. We ask for help when he was on the ropes.
I mean, and I it said it to Peter (ph) (INAUDIBLE) there, and it's on the record in The Wall Street Journal and somewhere, I said, unless you give us a little help now, just a little nudge you could have gotten, and you...
CROWLEY: Now he has come back, and he's a little stronger.
ERRISHI: And you just said that. He said he was in real trouble and they were dragging their feet. I don't know why. We asked -- we don't want no-fly zone actually. We just want aid cover -- air cover. And I'll let Steve talk, I don't want to...
CROWLEY: Well, I just want -- what I want him to pick up on this, there is a fine line here because the U.S. doesn't need a lot of fingerprints on a change-over in an administration anyplace because it tends to backfire on us. We're not all that well-liked in the region in general.
On the other hand, there are people dying over there, at the hands of Moammar Gadhafi, who are not anywhere nearly as well-armed as he is. What is the military option? And to speak to -- with what the doctor just said, was there a time when the administration paused too long? Was there a time to push him out that we missed?
HADLEY: Well, you know, you really won't know the answer to that question until you see how this plays out. I think one of the things that the Libyan people, like any other people who are in process of freeing themselves, they want to do it themselves.
People actually want and need to fight and win their own freedom. But that doesn't mean that we cannot help. I've tried to sketch out some things we could do diplomatically to help. Obviously, if there is a way to get weapons into the hands of the rebels, if we can get anti-aircraft systems so that they can enforce a no-fly zone over their own territory, that would be helpful.
And I think that's what really they're calling for, help and support, but they wanted to be empowered to do it themselves rather than have someone do it for them. And that's, I think, the context in which we should be looking at what we can do.
CROWLEY: Stephen Hadley, former head of the NSA; Dr. Ali Errishi, thank you so much. I appreciate both of your insight into this.
ERRISHI: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Next, we're going to try to get inside the minds of Republican hopefuls deciding whether or not to run for president.
CROWLEY: Joining me now to talk presidential politics and analyze the 2012 field, two men who have had firsthand experience on the campaign trail. Republican Lamar Alexander ran for his party's nomination twice in the 1996 and 2000 elections. And Bill Richardson was democratic candidate for in 2008. I don't know whether, gentleman, that seemed like a long time ago or short time ago, but i know you remember it well. So, let me ask you first, when you look at just the general state of play in the presidential field, we're looking at a president likely to not have any serious -- any serious competition in the primaries and then a wide open Republican field, we've seen this week our unemployment numbers are improving, they've fallen below 9%. How formidable does the president look as a candidate right now, Senator Alexander?
ALEXANDER: Well, any incumbent president is formidable. I wouldn't assume there won't be a Democratic challenge. I remember when Pat Buchanan jumped in against the first President Bush.
But any incumbent president is a formidable challenge. This is a lot harder than it looks. It's like going from eighth grade basketball to the NBA finals to jump into a presidential race.
CROWLEY: And Governor Richardson, let me ask you a different iteration of that question, and that is who do you see out there toying with the idea of jumping into the Republican race do you think, would be a formidable challenger to the president?
RICHARDSON: I believe a dark horse candidate that is strong with their conservative base, that is articulate, that is attractive. I think this is the time probably...
CROWLEY: Give me a name.
RICHARDSON: ...for the Republicans to seriously -- well, I thought that Senator Thune, but i guess he took himself out. I thought he'd be formidable. I know the guy. My point here is that they've got 12 candidates, many are reasonably well known, they're fighting with each other. They haven't started out well, but I do think the more formidable challenger for President Obama, who I believe will be re-elected, is in a very strong position s a dark horse candidate. Sort of the way Lamar Alexander was years ago when they was running. He was -- I thought he would be a very serious candidate and he was kind of a dark horse.
CROWLEY: Senator Alexander, looking at the state of play and the field as we now see it, one of the things a Republican pollster has looked at and said, here's a problem for Republicans, you all very focused on what you believe the message of the last campaign in 2010 was, which is, budget cuts, budget cuts, budget cuts. But recent polling shows that what Americans want congress to be doing is focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs. Do you think you all are on the wrong subject?
ALEXANDER: No, I think -- we should be focused on jobs and debt. I mean, our whole focus ought to be on making it easier and cheaper to create private sector jobs. And the second thing we need to do is to show that we are willing to step up and stop this business of borrowing 42 cents out of every dollar we spend. So I fully expect our nominee will be the one who does the best job of saying, of President Obama and the Democratic congress, look, You've had too many taxes, you made it too hard to create private sector jobs. You haven't enacted the trade agreements you proposed expensive energy, you want to take the secret ballot away in union elections. We're going to make it easier to create jobs.
I mean, if you've had 24 months, as we have in Tennessee, of 9% unemployment, that's not a very good record to run for re-election on. And that's what President Obama has right now.
CROWLEY: Governor Richardson, when you look at this slate of candidates who are out there, what's going through their minds? We saw this week Newt Gingrich -- you know, he was going to form an exploratory committee and then he didn't announce -- and he just said he was exploring it and he kind of did an exploratory committee. What is everyone weighing or are they waiting to get in?
Take us behind the scenes as to what they're thinking.
RICHARDSON: Well, I'm going to be very frank. I asked my campaign manager, David Contarino what were the six steps we needed to take before we made the run. And three out of the six were can we raise the money to do it. So, that's a big factor.
Secondly, do you have it in you to go through two years of very intensive personal and professional trials and tribulations running for president?
Third, do you have a theme? When I ran, I wanted to make it green energy, restoring America in the world. You've got to know why you're running.
And then lastly, where do you fit in during the current crop? When you have 14 Republican candidates that are out there, you have to find yourself a niche. But most importantly, your family, is your family behind you? Are you personally ready to take the steps?
And then as I said, you have to be able to find sources of funds to run a presidential campaign. You can't do it on shoe strings. And unfortunately, that's our system.
CROWLEY: Senator Alexander, I want to show our audience a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll on favorable ratings of a couple of people, Republicans all thinking about running. Donald Trump had a 26 percent favorable rating. Mitt Romney, 25 percent. Tim Pawlenty, 10 percent. I'd just like to know what you make of the fact that Donald Trump is kind of out there, himself saying he might be a candidate and that he rates higher than some of the more mainstream candidates or certainly people we tend to think of more in the political arena.
ALEXANDER: Well, it says more about the media than Donald Trump. I mean, there's always someone like Donald Trump who runs who has absolutely no chance of winning and who is well known. I mean, he's famous for being famous. He may be good in business but he's not going to be president.
The fact is, there are only two to three people on either side who have any real chance to be president of the united states. People who will actually start and run all the way through to the end, be able to raise enough money and do the job once they get there.
It's surprising that in a country this big, that's the case, but we have a lot of well-known people but not very many who have the capacity and ability to be President of the United States. We make fun of them. We ridicule them. We run them down, but the fact is, whether it's Obama or Bush or Clinton or the first Bush, all of those men, and Hillary Clinton when she ran, are very exceptional individuals and it's hard to do.
So, Tim Pawlenty has a much better chance than Donald Trump of being the Republican nominee. CROWLEY: And Senator Alexander, let me ask you, who in this wide open Republican field looks like a valid candidate, one of those two or three who will rise to the top. Who is that for you?
ALEXANDER: Well, it's too early to say. But first, you have to look at those who are determined to run. And I would say Mitt Romney is most likely to run. And is clearly someone who has the ability to do it. There are others who could, but they haven't indicated they're sure to run, like Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniel, Haley Barbour, Governor Pawlenty. And then you've got Newt with the force of his ideas, and Sarah Palin with the force of her personality.
So, there's a pretty interesting primary right there. But it will boil down to two or three and basically it will be the ones who are willing to start and finish. That's 90% of it.
CROWLEY: Governor Richardson, I want to take in our final minutes together with both you and the senator to talk just a couple of issues here, a little off this conversation, and the first one to you is, as U.N. ambassador looking at this Libyan situation at the top of the show, I talked to two men, I know you both hard it, and we heard from our reporter Nic Robertson that Moammar Gadhafi is a man who seems to be in this to stay. Has the U.S. handled this, has the president handled this in a way that has made things more difficult now that it looks like Moammar Gadhafi has some staying power?
RICHARDSON: Well, I believe the president has handled this crisis well. His statement two days ago that Gadhafi must go lays a cornerstone for a policy. What I think the U.S. needs to do is, one, covertly arm the rebels. We should take that step. Develop a no-fly zone. I think that is going to be needed. Maybe we get the Brits and the French and the Italians and the Arab League or some kind of no- fly zone is going to be necessary mainly to send a message to Libya's military and Gadhafi that the U.S. and the international community is not with them.
Protect those refugees. Find ways to help those refugees get out of Libya. find ways, too, we can develop in Libya what is called a civil society: respect for human rights, democratic institutions. Start now. I like that idea of Steve Hadley's of establishing a trust, a financial trust, that develops those democratic reforms in Libya. Get in there early.
But again, there's huge, huge opportunities for American foreign policy in the Middle East to be associated with democratic institutions with those protesters that want democracy and equal rights, for us to be on the ride side. And I believe the president has moved very much in that direction.
But the next week is going to be crucial. And the most important step, I believe, is the development of an internationally recognized no-fly zone, U.N.-backed, NATO-backed, some kind of fly zone.
CROWLEY: Let me just -- because I literally have 15 seconds, Senator Alexander. I wanted to ask you about gas prices. They're shooting up. We're told they could go as high as $5 a gallon. Is it time for the president to open up the strategic reserve or do anything else or do we let it fly?
ALEXANDER: Not the strategic reserve. I'm buying an electric car tomorrow. And that's going to give me the patriotic pleasure of plugging in and not sending money overseas to people trying to blow us up.
What we need to do is find more of our own energy and that means explore offshore. That means explore in federal lands for oil and natural gas and means explore in Alaska.
CROWLEY: Thank you so much. Senator Alexander, Governor Richardson, appreciate you both.
When we come back, hearings in congress that are causing controversy before they even start.
CROWLEY: Thursday the chairman of the House homeland security committee, Republican Peter King, will open hearings on what he calls radicalization in the American Muslim community. Critics are outraged, accusing King of singling out a group based on their faith. The congressman says there are a string of examples that point to the need for these hearings -- Nagibullah Zazi, an Afghan national, a permanent U.S. resident who worked as an airport shuttle driver in Colorado, arrested in September 2009. He later pleaded guilty to plotting to bomb New York subway system. Zazi he was trained by al Qaeda in Pakistan. Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American pleaded guilty to trying to set off a car bomb in Times Square last May. He too was strained in Pakistan. Major Nadal Hasan, a Virginia born military psychiatrist is accused of fatally shooting 13 people at Ft. Hood in November 2009. Most recently the FBI arrested Khalid Ali Aldawsari, a Saudi studying in Lubbock, Texas. He's accused of acquiring chemicals for a bomb and targeting former President George W. Bush's Dallas home. In a personal journal found in his apartment, Aldawsari wrote that he was inspired by Osama bin Laden's speeches.
Up next, Congressman King and his colleague, Democratic congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, who will testify at King's hearings.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Joining me here in Washington, Congressman Peter King, chairman of the committee holding hearings on the radicalization of Muslim Americans, and Congressman Keith Ellison, who was the first Muslim elected to Congress.
So we're going to get a little preview here.
Congressman, something that you said to the Associated Press caught my attention, and I just want to read it here for our viewers. This was end of February. "There is a real threat to the country from the Muslim community, and the only way to get to the bottom of it is to investigate what is happening."
And I read that and I thought, whoa, you know, that just sounds like, kind of, blanket guilt here. There's a -- the Muslim -- there's something in the Muslim community that's threatening us. What is it?
KING: Well, something from within. And I've said time and time again, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans but at this stage in our history, there is an effort to -- to radicalize efforts within the Muslim committee.
And I've said, when we've gone after the Mafias, we looked at the Italian community; the Westies, the Irish community. In New York, when they went after the Russian mob, they go into the Russian community in Brighton Beach and Coney Island.
And right now there is an effort -- and this isn't just me saying this. Eric Holder said he stays awake at night worrying about the numbers of young Muslim men who are being radicalized.
CROWLEY: But do you worry about -- and let me ask you, Congressman, do you worry about that message being sent to Muslim Americans, that there is an investigation going on because there's a threat within the community to their country, essentially?
ELLISON: I worry about it. Everybody I talk to worries about it. And we're concerned about the breadth of this -- I mean, I would -- I think that there's -- it's absolutely the right thing to do for the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee to investigate radicalization, but to say we're going to investigate a -- a religious minority and a particular one, I think, is the wrong course of action to take.
I mean, taking up on the chairman's point, you know, look, if we're going to talk about gang violence, I don't think it's right to talk about, you know, only the Irish community and the Westies. I think we talk -- we talk about gang violence. I think, if we're going to talk about organized crime, it's not right to just talk about the Russian community.
CROWLEY: But if you're going to talk about the influence of Al Qaida, does that not take -- I mean, I'm assuming that's what you would say, and I'll let you say it, is that you're talking about the influence of Al Qaida, not just terrorism in general. Is that... KING: Right. We're talking about Al Qaida. We're talking about the affiliates of Al Qaida who have been radicalizing, and there's been self-radicalization going on within the Muslim community, within a very small minority, but it's there. And that's where the threat is coming from at this time.
To be having investigations into every type of violence will be suggesting an equivalency that's not there.
I mean, Eric Holder is not saying he's staying awake at night because of what's coming from anti-abortion demonstrators or coming from environmental extremists or from neo-Nazis. It's the radicalization right now in the Muslim community. Janet Napolitano said two weeks ago, when she testified before our committee, the terror threat now is as high as it's been since September 11 because of domestic radicalization.
CROWLEY: Congressman Ellison, why participate if you're worried that this message to the Muslim-American community is a bad one?
ELLISON: Because I believe in engaging in the process. I think you've got to be involved in the conversation. You've got to offer an alternative view. And I do plan on saying that I challenge the basic premise of the hearings, that I do agree that we should deal with radicalization and violent radicalization but that singling out one community is the wrong thing to do.
CROWLEY: I know there's this specific definition of terrorism, but if you're one of the people that was shot in Tucson, Arizona, along with your colleague, Congresswoman Giffords, that seems like an act of terrorism. So why is the influence there not in your purview, or why isn't it in this investigation?
KING: The Department of Homeland Security was set up after September 11th. The Committee on Homeland Security was set up after September 11th. And we're talking about a radicalization in this country which is linked to an overseas enemy.
This is Al Qaida internationally; it's attempting to recruit within the United States. People in this country are being self- radicalized, whether it's Major Hasan or whether it's Shahzad or whether it was Zazi in New York. These were all people who were identifying, in one way or another, with Al Qaida or Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. So it's an international movement with elements here in the United States.
And to me, that is a real distinction. There's always going to be isolated incidents, isolated fanatics, isolated terrorists, even. But an organized terrorist effort, to me, is different, which requires an investigation unto itself.
CROWLEY: So, you know, I think the problem here is do you already have -- you already have an idea of what you think is wrong, correct? I mean, you believe that Muslim-American leaders are not -- not cooperating enough with law enforcement. Is that correct? KING: I believe not enough. Wait, I'm starting off with a number of hypotheses and theses that I believe in. However, what I want more than anything is to have a national debate on the issue, which is why I welcome Keith Ellison...
CROWLEY: What is -- what does this debate do?
I mean, what -- you know, what do you want to know? Why have it? I'm just -- I'm lost as to why, because so many people say, this may fuel Islamophobia; this may make leaders in the community less likely to cooperate with the government because it, kind of, looks like the government's after them, when you hold these big old hearings.
KING: Well, I would say, let people watch the hearing and decide then. I think the hearing is going to be very productive; it's going to go forward; and it's going to talk about something which is not being talked about publicly, which I think should be.
ELLISON: Well, let me say that, you know, Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden, all these people are the enemies of all Americans, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, all. And I don't want them to be able to stand up and claim, you know, "See, we told you; America's at war with Islam."
That's one of their main recruiting arguments. That's why I think that we need to -- we need to be careful about how we use the instrumentality of the government in investigative hearings.
CROWLEY: But al-Awlaki is not calling my kids. I mean, there's not -- I mean, you know, al-Awlaki is, you know, targeting Muslim Americans. I mean, I'm assuming that's a point of focusing on this.
ELLISON: I'm glad you made that point because let me be clear. I think that it does make sense to talk with people in the Muslim community about how we can meet the challenge of public security. I do think so.
I think it makes sense to talk about Internet, confronting ideology of people like Anwar al-Awlaki. I think where he's trying to exploit and misuse Islam, we should counter him with what Islam really does say. And so I do think that there is a place for that. I just think it doesn't make sense to narrow in on a discreet insular group that has already been the target of a certain amount of discrimination.
CROWLEY: I want you both to hang with me a minute. We have to take a quick break. These hearings begin on March 10th. We'll talk more about what the Congressmen expect to come out of them, right after this.
CROWLEY: We are back with Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House homeland security committee and Congressman Keith Ellison.
Do you think the Muslim-American community, leaders in the Muslim-American community has been as helpful as they can when it comes to dealing with law enforcement? Do you think they have been as helpful as they can?
ELLISON: The stats say yes. As a matter of fact, if you look at these five gentleman who have tried to go from the Virginia-Maryland area to Pakistan to fight in some holy war it was Muslim-Americans who actually reported them. If you want to talk about Faisal Shahzad, who tried to blow up that bomb in Times Square, a man named Niasa (ph), a Muslim from Senegal was one of the people who reported it.
There are occasion after occasion. That's why I think the strategy should be to engage the community, don't frighten the community, engage the community and help and say look we embrace you as fellow Americans. Let's all together hold hands and meet the security challenge.
CROWLEY: I want to just to this point and then I want you to comment. There was a triangle center on terrorism and homeland security report backed by some prestigious universities which found that since 9/11 of the cases that we know about that law enforcement is telling us about, that were thwarted, there 120 thwarted, 48 of those -- about a third -- came out of tips from the Muslim-American community. So doesn't that tell you there is cooperation there?
KING: No. I'm aware of a number of cases in New York where the community has not been cooperative. We have, for instance, Venus (ph) who was captured in Afghanistan. He went to two mosques in Suffolk County in Long Island, said he wanted to engage in jihad. They said we don't do it, but never told the police. And then he went off to Afghanistan. So there's just one example. I can give others.
And I don't believe the is sufficient cooperation. Certainly in my dealings with the police in New York and FBI and others say they do not believe they do not get the level of cooperation that they need, and even in Minneapolis we had occasions with Somalia-Americans who felt that there were imams in their own community who were telling them not to cooperate with the FBI.
ELLISON: You know, let me tell you, when you delve into the Somali community, it is a very rich, vibrant and complicated community, but I will tell you this Minneapolis what we've done is we have pulled together citizens from the community, youth together with the U.S. attorney, people from homeland security and everybody to try to bring people into a point where we can have some trust.
I think if you have people that feel like there's an open door, that they can report things and there's a welcoming environment, I think we begin to help protect more Americans. But once we start to say we're going to investigate you, we're after you as a community I think that we kind of -- we kind of undermine our own effort.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you a broader question about homeland security something that Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security, said. And she said if the 2012 budget which you all will eventually get around to is based on the cuts that are being made in the 2011 budget, Homeland Security will suffer from that. Do you believe that?
KING: Yes, I do. Let me shock Keith by saying it. And I think a number of cuts that Republicans have made in the continuing resolution are wrong. They cut port security by two-thirds, they cut transit security by two-thirds, that's one example right there. We cannot afford those cuts. They are too dangerous. And one attack on one subway train or one attack in one port will cost us more money going into future years than any small amount they are saving. So I agree with them on that, yes.
CROWLEY: And let me ask you, there's been criticism of the FBI, Attorney General Holder from Muslim American groups about what they see as stings, undercover FBI agents who went into a mosque in California, the young man in Oregon where they supplied a device to that he thought was an explosive but it was from an FBI informant. Do you think the FBI has gone too far?
ELLISON: You know, what I think the FBI has done a commendable job on many occasions, but every institution needs to be about improving what it does, becoming more effective.
I would just counsel the FBI keep on reaching on out, keep on talking, don't shut anybody out of the conversation. You don't have to agree with what people say but at least be engaged.
So I'm not here to say there's been any -- I don't think that the FBI has failed, but I do think that there's room for improvement. But they have done excellent work in some other occasions.
CROWLEY: And Congressman King let me close with you, and this is just flat out politics, Judson Phillips was the founder of the Tea Party Nation. He has recently said that he thinks Speaker Boehner looks like a fool, that there should in fact be a primary challenge to him because the $61 billion cuts is not enough. Can you give me just your reaction to that?
KING: It's totally wrong. It's entirely wrong. John Boehner is an outstanding speaker. He's going to provide great leadership. I think he has respect from both sides of the aisle, even though those who disagree with him. And I think John is an outstanding speaker. And when people make remarks like that to me are marginalizing themselves. John Boehner has a very tough job. He's doing it commendably.
CROWLEY: You don't think it looks like civil war inside your party?
KING: I would stand by John Boehner to the end. And as far as I know everyone on our side of the aisle stands with him.
CROWLEY: Good guy?
ELLISON: Nice guy. We disagree on almost everything, but he's personable.
KING: That's what I say about Keith.
CROWLEY: OK. Thank you Congressman Ellison. Thank you so much, Congressman King. Thanks for joining us.
When we come back a look at the day's top stories. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CROWLEY: Top stories. The U.S. State Department is warning Americans against traveling to Yemen. Today's advisory says the threat level in Yemen is extremely high due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. It comes the same day as suspected al Qaeda members killed four Yemeni soldiers.
In Bahrain there was a large but peaceful protest outside of the palace where the country's cabinet met today. It was the first time a demonstration had been allowed at the site. Protesters chanted slogans calling for the ouster of Bahrain's prime minister.
A small British diplomatic team is in Benghazi, Libya talking with the country's rebels. Sources tell CNN negotiations are under way to the release of eight British special forces troops being detained in eastern Libya by opposition forces.
Thank you for watching State of the Union. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Up next for our viewers here in the United States, "Fareed Zakaria GPS."