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Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

By The Situation Room - September 7, 2011

WOLF BLITZER: Let's dig deeper on this with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. She is the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

Quickly, is the U.S. prepared for this type of bomb?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, the report we just heard from Nic Robertson is essentially 100 percent correct.

It is a real threat. It emanates out of al Qaeda in Yemen. Al- Asiri is the person of concern. Awlaki is the person of concern as well. There actually were two tubes found in Dubai of PETN loaded into the printer tubes. And this was an intelligence source. They went, they looked, they didn't find it. The source said, go back. You have to open the printers. And in each one of the tubes, there was enough PETN to blow up an airplane. No question about that.

Abdulmutallab used PETN in the Christmas Day attempted attack. Now, they have improved, no question about. So I think we have to be concerned. I think it's important that we keep upgrading our technology at airports to be able to detect it. How that's going to be done is more likely through body searches, in addition to improving magnetometers.

But it is correct. I would say that Yemen is at the top of my list as a source of a terrorist attack.

BLITZER: Because the concern is not so much checking the bodies as people go through the metal detection or whatever devices. It's that cargo that goes undetected on some of these huge airline -- these huge aircraft. Are we doing a better job inspecting the cargo?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I can't really answer that. I can find out and let you know.

Whatever it is, it's not enough. I think that's clear. Not only is that a worry, but there is a worry about a bomb being implanted in a human being and placed on an airplane. So, I think there is a lot to worry about.

Now, having said that, there is no specific intelligence. We do know that Osama bin Laden was encouraging an attack on the United States. And I think it's logical to assume that revenge is a very strong motive. So, I think we should be on guard. I think this next week and the following week are critical. People who travel should be on guard. All our military, our police and I think the word has been spread. And people know to be careful to watch, to report. Something that looks suspicious to you, don't be embarrassed to go to an authority and say, "Look, I saw this and it seems suspicious to me."

BLITZER: Because, as all of our viewers know, I've been concerned about this for weeks now, that there might be a revenge attack in coordination with the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which is on Sunday.

Without there being any specific credible information, as you point out, Senator, is there, though, any increased chatter, shall we say, that would really concern the U.S. into raising threat levels at military bases and embassies around the world and wherever?

FEINSTEIN: I think there's increased chatter in terms of propaganda. I've just reviewed the intelligence yesterday of the last one. And a -- the way I, at least, see it, it's in more finished form, and I don't see the unfinished intelligence that may have the chatter in it. But I would assume -- assume -- that there's a good deal of talk about it. BLITZER: Because when I interviewed President Obama a few weeks ago, he said his main concern right now, it's always some sort of spectacular attack against the United States, but maybe something more modest from the so-called lone wolves, along the lines of what we recently saw in Norway.

How concerned are you, Senator, as chair of the intelligence committee, about the lone wolf or sympathizer, someone supportive of al Qaeda?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm concerned. The lesson of the Christmas Day bomber was that the Yemenis went out of their way to get a Nigerian, somebody whose family was very well-respected in the country, who was not likely to be a suspect. And he had the underwear bomb on him.

And the fact that he couldn't detonate it and it caught on fire and he was burned but the explosion did not take place was not lost on us that this is a potential real hazard. And the fact that it's undetectable by magnetometers, it is another deep concern.

So there's only one way, and that is to be very careful, to take time in screening people, and to utilize some of the Israeli methods of talking with people and doing the kind of quick interviews. That's easy with a country of a very few million people. It's difficult in our country with all of the air travelers we have. So I think people have to look out for each other.

But a lot has been spent on technology. We have now a counterterrorism center. The stacks are down. Intelligence is streamlining. The analysis is better. The red teaming is better. And everyone is on the alert.

We also have an FBI that now has in this country FBI agents essentially looking for the lone wolf in this country. And they've become much better, much more sophisticated in these last few years, as well.

So it's not that things are not happening to provide the protection. They are. What it is, is our enemies are smart. And they're going to be determined to stay one step ahead of us. Therefore, if they can't put it in a computer, can they put it in a human being? All of these things, I think, are going on and being explored. And so we have to be doubly alert.

BLITZER: Good advance from Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator, as usual, thanks very much for coming in.

FEINSTEIN: You're welcome, Wolf. Thank you. 

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