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Interview with Senator James Inhofe

Interview with Senator James Inhofe

By The Situation Room - May 12, 2011

BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Nice to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You went to the CIA and you saw the pictures of a dead bin Laden. Describe what you saw.

INHOFE: Well, there are 15 pictures, Wolf. And 12 of those were taken in the compound probably in the first minute after the kill, my guess is, judging from the time they had -- the limited time they had.

Those pictures showed very graphically that the kill bullet went in the left eye and came out the right ear, or it appeared more that it went in the ear and came out the right -- the right eye.

Now, that -- when I say graphic, there were parts of the inner part of the head, the brain, that was actually protruding from the socket. And so that was pretty -- pretty bad.

Now, they also had three older pictures of him, so that the viewer, myself in this case, could look and see and compare what they looked like in terms of, you know -- of when he was alive, and there's no question at all that was him.

However, he was all covered up with stuff. It was hard to see. The revealing thing, Wolf, was, after that, the last three pictures were actually on the USS Vinson. And they were preparing him for burial. So, he was cleaned up. His face was cleaned up. He was partially dressed at that time.

And I would -- and then the last one was the burial. I would say this. The big discussion about whether to disclose this to the public, I have always said, yes, I think the public should see the pictures.

If that happened, I would suggest maybe using those when he was cleaned up, for two reasons. One, they are not quite as gruesome. And, two, you can see him better, so that the doubting person out there will have no doubt in his mind that's Osama bin Laden.

BLITZER: And, so, when you saw the picture of him in the compound, with the blood and the really gory picture, could you make out -- if somebody would have said, look at this picture, could you clearly discern that this is bin Laden?

INHOFE: Oh, absolutely. Yes, you could. You have to look at half of his face. The other half was -- would be difficult.

And the reason you could is because they had some older pictures of him with little lines drawn down there as to the millimeters between the various features. And so it was put together pretty well.

And I might add this. They just sent me in a room by myself with nobody else to go through the pictures. I think that's probably good, because we can draw our own conclusions as to what we were viewing.

BLITZER: Did they show you any video?

INHOFE: No.

BLITZER: Is there a video that they are showing members of Congress, the House or the Senate, as far as you know?

INHOFE: No, I have not heard -- I have not even heard of any video.

BLITZER: What was -- because I had seen a report that they also have some video that they are going to share with selected members of the Intelligence Committee. Whether they have or they haven't yet -- done that yet, I don't know. But I was wondering if they told you about that.

INHOFE: No. I question that.

I mean, if I'm the first one and, so far, as of this moment, still the -- well, I guess, today, some of the rest of them have seen it. But if I was the first one, I'm sure they would have told me there is video, if there is video. So, I would question that there is.

BLITZER: We did...

(CROSSTALK)

INHOFE: And I don't think you really would accomplish much by a video either.

BLITZER: To show the video of what was happening in the room, the compound when all this was going on, if in fact they have that video. I'm not sure what the video that they have shows. But I was just curious if they showed you some video.

I know you had to drive over to the CIA, to Langley, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C. Walk us through the process. Did you have to leave your cell phones outside the room? What -- what happened there?

INHOFE Well, I went -- I had one staff person with me, military guy. We parked the car outside. As I went in they said leave your -- leave your -- BlackBerries and all that, which I did. Had someone come down. Went up to the -- can't remember what floor it was. And a very nice gentleman who works for Panetta said, "Here's the room." It's like a board room. And I went in and sat down. He left. And I just looked through the pictures as long as I wanted to.

In fact, I went back and relooked at a couple of times at some things so I would make some notes and remember what it was.

So I think by now, you have quite a few members. Frankly, I know I've been criticized and others -- other members when they see this. But you know -- with all this talk about the -- pictures should be released. My -- my conversation with Panetta was, while you're deciding to do that, why not let us do it so at least I can tell my people in Oklahoma that the guy is dead? And that's exactly what happened.

BLITZER: Here's the president's explanation the other day on why he feels the pictures should not be released to the public. I'll play the clip from "60 Minutes."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think -- Americans and people around the world are glad that he's gone. But -- but we don't need to spike the football. And -- I think that -- given the graphic nature of these photos, it would -- create some national security risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

INHOFE: I don't agree.

BLITZER: Tell us why you don't agree with the president.

INHOFE: Well, I don't agree with that. First of all, we're talking about terrorists out there, Wolf. Everyone who is watching us now, they want to kill all Americans. Now they tried some 32 times. They had well-thought-out schemes. We were able to stop that. And -- as a result of that, our intelligence did a very good job.

But if they even -- even today or in the absence of the -- of the -- putting down Osama bin Laden, they still want to kill us. So I just think -- I think it kind of sends a message out that -- we're kind of ashamed of what we did. I just don't agree with that out.

BLITZER: Bin Laden's family members, some of his sons say they want to see the pictures. Should the U.S. government let the family members of bin Laden see the pictures?

INHOFE: I wouldn't recommend it. I don't -- you know, it's -- to me that's -- we're spending a lot of time here talking about what to do with a bunch of pictures. We still are in the middle of a war, and we still have al Qaeda out there. And we've got -- you know, we ought to be concentrating our efforts on getting the terrorists right now. I don't really care one way or another about that.

BLITZER: Senator...

INHOFE: I would say this, though.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

INHOFE: I believe that -- you know, there's kind of this self- appointed appointment to keep -- Gitmo open all these years, the three years that President Obama has been trying to close it.

Well, I think it is -- demonstrated clearly now, some of the initial steps came from there and, of course, the CIA interrogation methods that he was criticizing. If it hadn't been for that, Osama bin Laden would be alive today.

I really think we need to expand now and start letting -- putting new detainees into -- into Gitmo. There's no place else they can put them, Wolf. They have to put them in these countries where they catch him. Then they turn them loose. It's a revolving door. So I think we need to use that great resource than we have called Gitmo.

BLITZER: And that debate will continue. You know, the White House denies that the enhanced interrogation techniques led to bin Laden's death, but I know that you and many others that disagree with him on that point, as well.

INHOFE: That's correct.

BLITZER: All right. Senator, thanks very much.

INHOFE: Thank you.

 

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