Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

By The Situation Room - March 31, 2011

BLITZER: The hard-pressed Libyan rebels say lulls in allied air activity have allowed Gadhafi's forces to advance. They're appealing for more airstrikes. But with NATO now in command, there's a new reality in the skies over Libya.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator Feinstein, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Secretary Gates, the Defense secretary, confirmed today what Senator Lindsey Graham hinted to us yesterday, that now that NATO has taken charge of the air action, all of the military action over Libya, the U.S. is no longer taking an active role in strike activities in Libya.

Is that a good idea?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I believe that's the case. Yes, I think it is a good idea. I think not having our participation in this is appropriate. We used our technology to secure air superiority; that is secured. And the agreement was that when that was secured, NATO would take over. So NATO will now take over the no-fly zone and the embargo.

BLITZER: The reason I raised the question is because the opponents of Moammar Gadhafi are losing big time right now and NATO is certainly not going to do as robust a military action as the U.S. would want to do.

Do you want to see the rebels defeated?

FEINSTEIN: No, I do not want to see the rebels defeated. But the president has said no boots on the ground, and I agree with him. We've got a number of other nations that can put boots on the ground. These nations can also figure out how best militarily to hit Gadhafi.

And, you know, I could even make suggestions there. Look at his regime's protection brigade, specifically the two controlled by his sons, 36 and 9, and the --


BLITZER: What would you do? Would you go ahead and strike those brigades?

FEINSTEIN: I would go ahead and strike those brigades.

BLITZER: Would the U.S. -- should the U.S. launch airstrikes against those brigades?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I didn't say that. I said -- this is now a NATO mission, essentially.

BLITZER: But NATO's not going to do it with Turkey and Germany. NATO is going to be weak in this aspect, as you well know.

FEINSTEIN: Well, let's -- yes. I wouldn't say that. At this time, you don't know. You hypothesize, and --

BLITZER: There seems to be --

FEINSTEIN: -- I'm not going to do that.

BLITZER: -- over the past 24 to 48 hours, Senator, a really decline in airstrikes pounding of Libyan-Gadhafi positions.

FEINSTEIN: Well, the key to this, and has been form the beginning, it begins and ends with Gadhafi. I think his interior -- or his minister defecting in Great Britain I think is helpful. Hopefully, others will follow suit.

I think we'll see in the next couple of days, this is the first day NATO has really been in charge, we'll see how they do. I think there are many military missions that can be carried out.

BLITZER: Do you agree that Gadhafi must, when all is said and done, be removed as the leader of Libya?

FEINSTEIN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: So how far should the U.S. go in achieving that goal?

FEINSTEIN: I think the United States should do essentially what has to be done to move him out of office --

BLITZER: Kill him?

FEINSTEIN: -- either physically -- no, I didn't say that, and I'm not going to get into that. I think physically or finding a diplomatic solution, as Secretary Clinton has suggested, is appropriate.

But it's key to me that the end game begin to be discussed. It's hard to expect, you know, rebel forces to be able to defeat a well- organized military. However, you know, Gadhafi was worried enough that he is putting some of his troops in civilian dress, so you can't tell the difference. That indicates to me, you know, the kind of person that he is.

I think we need to deal with Gadhafi.

BLITZER: I understand what you're saying.

The CIA is obviously playing some sort of role. Your committee oversees the CIA. What is the CIA role in Libya right now?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I can't tell you that. That's clear. That's classified information and I don't talk about it.

BLITZER: Should -- is it simply -- maybe you can explain this, is it simply intelligence gathering or covert action designed to help the rebels?

FEINSTEIN: Good try. I'm not going to discuss it.

BLITZER: That -- that sensitive of a piece of information, whether -- cause it's been in all the papers today -- whether they're simply involved in intelligence gathering or are they trying to spot targets and help the rebels defeat Gadhafi's forces?

FEINSTEIN: Well, you know, everything you read in the newspapers isn't always correct either.

BLITZER: That's true. We know that.


BLITZER: And everything -- all we do on television isn't necessarily --

FEINSTEIN: Oh, yes, by all means.

BLITZER: -- correct either.

How worried are you about al Qaeda elements begin part of the opposition forces in Libya?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I will say this. I have seen some reports that cause me some worry, some concern. There's no question that this call has gone out. The question is what has actually been realized.

It's sufficient enough for me to believe in view of past history -- Afghanistan, Iraq -- that we should not arm the rebels. So I --

BLITZER: What about indirectly? Should we encourage, should the U.S. encourage Egypt or Saudi Arabia or other countries to arm the rebels?

FEINSTEIN: I don't know that we need to do that. They're free countries, they will make up their own minds.

But, you know, we did in Afghanistan; we got burned by it. We did in Iraq; we got burned by it. In other words, those weapons cropped up later being used against us, and I don't think that's something we ought to -- we ought to do.

We don't know, other than maybe a few dozen, who these people really are. We don't know if Gadhafi goes, what they would espouse. And to arm them when the call has gone out for jihad and there is a Libyan Islamic front, I would be very reserved in that judgment.

BLITZER: We're out of time, but one final question.

Is there any daylight at all between you and the Obama administration when it comes to Libya?

FEINSTEIN: I think, you know, the president has had very good advisers, Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton, Admiral Mullen. I think they came to a joint decision. It's being carried out. Hopefully, it can be carried out successfully. I think we stay the course.

BLITZER: So I will take that as a "no daylight."

FEINSTEIN: No daylight.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, thanks very much. We'll have you back.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.


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