Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

By The Situation Room - June 16, 2011

BLITZER: Just after the death of Osama bin Laden, there are now growing questions about what action Pakistan is taking to hold accountable those who may have helped harbor him.

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

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.


As far as you know, has anyone in Pakistan been arrested for protecting bin Laden during all those years he was there? Has the Pakistani government arrested anyone who helped bin Laden?

FEINSTEIN: I believe it's been reported that one person may well have been reported -- may well have been arrested.

BLITZER: One Pakistani who may have helped bin Laden hide all those years. Was that a Pakistani government official? Do you know?

FEINSTEIN: I'm not going to get into it, but I believe it's true of one person.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, there's a lot of outrage here that the Pakistanis have gone ahead and arrested informants who helped the CIA break open the whereabouts of where bin Laden was hiding, allowing the U.S. go ahead and kill him. This is a country that receives about $2 billion a year in U.S. economic and military assistance.

So, I guess the question to you is: is this money well-spent?

FEINSTEIN: Well, there's deep concern here. As you know, the House has essentially fenced 75 percent of the appropriation until there is a statement as to how this will be spent, and sort of conditions.

I think what's happened is over bin Laden, the mutual suspicion, and the lack of cooperation has really crystallized. And I think the Pakistanis have to understand that this is the number one terrorist in the world that had been living -- sheltered, so to speak -- in their country for five years, had bought land, had built a home. It is a substantial home right in the middle of a major suburb that housed a military academy. And nobody in Pakistan questioned it.

I think they have to understand that we would like very much to work with them jointly, to be able to go after people that are making IEDs that are being used against our troops in Afghanistan.

But if they're tipped off, that's a big problem -- so that the trust and the credibility has now deteriorated.

BLITZER: Do you -- I was going to say, do you believe there are elements in the Pakistani government, military intelligence service, who are now protecting, helping the new number one leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is now the number one leader?

FEINSTEIN: Well, we believe he is likely in Pakistan somewhere.

Do I believe that the government is harboring him? No.

Do I believe that the government might know or the ISI might know likely places where he would be? Yes.

Do I believe that the ISI could find him if they really wanted to? Yes.

But what I'm also concerned about is when there were joint operations set up on two IED factories, those -- the people making the IED in the factories were warned and disappeared before the Pakistani troops got there. That's a big problem, because it says we can't trust you. And let me say, I think we want to trust. We want to believe that we can work together with this nation. It is important that we do so.

But, you know, we suffered a big blow at 9/11. No American forgets it. You know, I remember it like it was yesterday, what happened.

And we would expect Pakistan to do the same thing if the situation was reversed. It hasn't been.


FEINSTEIN: And the United States doesn't do that kind of thing.

BLITZER: Well, what would it do if the Pakistanis -- and you suspect there are some Pakistanis who are harboring, helping Ayman al- Zawahiri hide out right now, you believe he's in Pakistan. If the Pakistanis, you know what they decided to do? Help the United States get the new leader of al Qaeda, who probably was just as involved in 9/11 as bin Laden was himself. Is there any chance the Pakistani government will do that?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think that would go a very long way in showing that we can work together. It makes no sense for the Pakistanis to want to harbor terrorists, because if they're real terrorists, they don't stop. They will one day come after Pakistan.

I deeply believe that. I believe it for the Taliban, I believe it for the Haqqani, I believe it for al Qaeda, and I think, you know, terror spreads.

Terror has root causes. I think we need to address those root causes.

I also think that we have to take out the leadership, and that's what this is all about.

BLITZER: On Libya, do you agree with the White House, the presidents of the United States, when he says the War Powers Act -- and you're familiar with that -- does not apply right now to U.S. military operations in Libya?

FEINSTEIN: Well, as you know, this is a greatly contested part of law. The president for, I guess, decades has believed that he has a degree of executive authority to move here.

I think the facts in Libya are not distinct in that regard. In other words, the United States is not playing a full role. There are no boots on the ground. We are providing some intelligence and some technological service to NATO that is the main body here.

Having said that, this has gone on for substantial period of time -- beyond the 60 days. That's right. I believe shortly, if not already, Senator Kerry and Senator McCain will be introducing a resolution, of which I am a co-sponsor, and I think eight others are as well, that would essentially also have an authorization bill in it which would authorize exactly what the United States' involvement is today.

So, that should set us all four square and we can go on from there. And I think there's no need to make a huge issue over there.

BLITZER: When will that legislation be introduced to the Senate?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I think it's either today or tomorrow. I reviewed it yesterday and signed off on it for my participation in it. So, I suspect as quickly as they can get the sponsors on and get it introduced.

BLITZER: Well see what happens.

Senator, as usual, thanks very much.

FEINSTEIN: Oh, you're very welcome. Thank you, Wolf.


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