Interview with Senator Jack Reed

Interview with Senator Jack Reed

By John King, USA - February 24, 2011

JOHN KING: And blockbuster allegations in the upcoming issue of "Rolling Stone" magazine, that the U.S. military used psychological warfare to influence leading members of Congress to try to get them to approve more funding for the war in Afghanistan.

That "Rolling Stone" article says Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island was one of the targets of the operation. And he joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, you're not only a member of the United States Senate. You're a West Point graduate, a former Army Ranger. You know a little bit about psychological operations.

Were you a target, sir?

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I never sensed there was anything unusual last year, in contrast to my other visits over the last 10 years.

KING: And yet, if you read this article in "Rolling Stone," let me read you a quote from it, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Holmes says, "My job in psy-ops is to play with people's heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave. I'm prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use those skills on senators and congressmen, you're crossing a line."

General Petraeus has asked for an investigation. If the investigation concludes that General Caldwell did indeed ask that these tactics be employed against members of Congress and other travelling VIPs for the region, what should the punishment be, Senator?

REED: Well, first of all, I think General Petraeus is absolutely correct in initiating a very serious investigation. The results of those investigations should determine what happened. You have to establish if there was a violation of regulations or rules, if the nature of that violation, we're far from any type of sort of conclusion and also ultimate sanction.

KING: If you were the president or the secretary of defense, though, and it turns -- the investigation turns out that General Caldwell did indeed ask this be done, what would you do?

REED: Well, I don't think you can prejudge. You have to look very carefully at what was done. This is an issue that raises very serious questions. First of all, whether it was appropriate. Secondly, could it have been done legally according to regulations by someone not involved in psychological operations? Third, there's the issue that came up in the article of whether there was any type of retribution towards this psychological warfare officer.

All these are serious issues. They shouldn't be prejudged. They should be investigated thoroughly. And that point, when the facts are all in hand, the determination should be made.

KING: What went through your mind when we read this article and you read these allegations?

We're talking about Jack Reed, again, a West Point graduate, a former Army Ranger; John McCain, who, of course, was tortured by the Vietnamese; others from Congress, Joe Lieberman, Al Franken, Carl Levin, Congressman Steve Israel -- even Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is on the list in this article.

What went through your mind when you read it?

REED: Well, my first reaction was, you know, trying to think back over the course of the multiple trips I've made to Afghanistan. And nothing stuck out unusually.

KING: And you didn't scratch your head at all and say, holy, you know what, you know, what I actually -- do you think it actually be vulnerable? Do you think they could use that tactic on you? REED: You know, I think we have all to be very, very careful. That's why I think you must bring through any of these deliberations a very questioning, skeptical viewpoint. You know, having spent time as a young officer not in Vietnam, but in a Vietnam era army, I think -- I understand or at least grew up with the notion that you have to be questioning. You have to look at the institutional, the organization incentives that people have. Everyone is an advocate for a certain position.

So, you bring, I hope, a very, very weary and questioning mind to all these deliberations and you try to supplement, you know, an interview or a briefing by one individual with multiple different sources so you can compare, contrast and draw a conclusion not based upon, you know, a session, an intent session or otherwise, but on a whole range of experiences.

KING: You think Congress should look into this or wait until the Army investigation is done?

REED: Oh, I think we have to wait for the Army to complete its investigation. This has to be done seriously. It has to be done very, very thoroughly. And it has to be done in a rather timely way.

This is -- these questions shouldn't be hanging out. There shouldn't be any sort of cloud hanging over what we hope is and what we assume is a very candid dialogue between military personnel and the United States Congress. That has to be sort of the basis of the relationship.

KING: Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island -- appreciate your time today.

REED: Thanks, John.


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