Interviews with Sens. Feinstein and Kirk

Interviews with Sens. Feinstein and Kirk

By John King, USA - October 20, 2011

KING: More new information now on the death of the Libyan strongman Muammar Gadhafi and the role the United States played in helping to flush him out of hiding. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is the chairwoman for Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. She joins us now fresh from a classified briefing on the Libyan developments.

Senator, let me just start right there. What did you learn about any role the United States might have played in finding Gadhafi and flushing him out of the hiding?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), CHAIR, SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: We learned nothing about the specifics of what happened to Gadhafi.

I think it's pretty clear, candidly, that he's dead, and I think now there's an opportunity for Libya to move forward, to put all this behind them, to show that they can make a real contribution to the world as a stable country with real democratic values.

KING: NATO has said that it was involved in firing at a convoy, and it believes Gadhafi was in that convoy and was wounded, and then the rebel fighters came along quickly and took him into custody. Any information at all on the coordination there?

FEINSTEIN: No, not -- not at this time.

KING: What is your concern going forward in the sense that -- I want you listen right here. This is Peter Bucard of Human Rights Watch. This is from about a month ago. He was touring Libya, and he said so many weapons are missing including very dangerous surface-to- air missiles. Let's listen.


PETER BUCARD, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: In every city we arrive, and the first thing to disappear are the surface-to-air missiles.

We're talking about some 20,000 missing surface-to-air missiles in all of Libya. And I've seen cars packed with them. They could turn all of North Africa into a no-fly zone.


KING: Senator, what is the latest intelligence on tracking those missiles down?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I actually have no intelligence on tracking those missiles down, except that I believe that report is very likely correct and that there are thousands of these missiles missing, that there are arms depots that have apparently been raided that were not well-guarded, and this is a problem. And I think that this new government of Libya is going to have to show responsibility up front and that, as a matter of first instance, they're going to have to see that weapons are secured, and weapons are off the street. And the reason prevails to develop a new government was it turns out to be a government by force, a government by threat, a government by the brandishment of weapons, that's not going to achieve anything.

KING: Well, let's break that down a little bit. You started off by saying you have no intelligence. Forgive me: that makes me a little bit nervous, maybe a little bit frightened, in the sense that is there no cooperation? Are there not U.S. intelligence assets on the ground looking for these missiles? Is the transitional government not making this a priority? Is the Obama administration and the other allies involved in NATO not making this enough of a priority if you have no information?

FEINSTEIN: Well, look, it's very new. The information will be put together. I'm sure, at some point we will be briefed.

You asked me what we were briefed on today, and it really is that there is some evidence that Gadhafi is dead. We don't know exactly what secured that death, but it will be -- it will be coming forward (AUDIO GAP) the gory details. Gadhafi is a man that will not be long mourned, not be long remembered. No one wants to replicate another Gadhafi.

And what is of importance is that we all look forward now and give the new government whatever support we can, and that government measures up. It's going to be a tremendous challenge to bring reason out of tumult. I hope they can do it. We want to help them do it. But they now have to step up, put their government together, take over, develop a constitution, develop the rule of law, and that's very important.

And it took the United States a long time to do it, so we need to provide whatever help we can to see that there is a stable and democratic Libya that emerges.

KING: You are among those who early on, during the conflict, even before Gadhafi fell from power two months ago, who said you're a little bit nervous. Some of those involved in trying to overthrow him had some ties to al Qaeda, that some of them might favor some radical Islamist operations inside Libya.

Are you convinced that either those elements have changed their ways or have been rooted out of the transitional government, or is that still a question mark?

FEINSTEIN: I take nothing for granted. I think to prove that you're right time, to prove that you can do it, to prove that you mean it, to prove that you want a stable, democratic Libya, and this is the time to show it. So we're going to see.

KING: And as we see, what happens? There was mustard gas. There's the surface-to-air missiles. There are many other weapons that were in those depots built up by Muammar Gadhafi that are giant question marks as to their whereabouts right now.

How do they prove to you, how do they prove to President Obama, how do they prove to NATO that they are willing to cooperate fully in that search? Do they have to have an open-ended commitment for NATO resources and U.S. resources on the ground in that hunt?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I see, I think, by their statements and by their actions. If their actions are filled with recrimination and violence that tells us one thing. If their actions are to sit down and work out a governmental structure, bring people together, find an element of reconciliation in the process and move on, that tells us a very positive thing.

You can't tell in the middle of battle, and battle has still been going on, and essentially, Gadhafi fell in one of the last instances of battle. Battles should now stop. Reconciliation should begin. A new nation should emerge. And leaders have to emerge to lead that nation.

KING: Diane Feinstein is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator, thank you for your time tonight.

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


KING: And at the time of transition Senator Feinstein just spoke about, we wanted to reflect on what just happened in tonight's "Number," 1.1 billion with a "B," $1.1 billion. What does that represent? That represents how much the United States spent on the NATO -- on its part of the NATO operation.

You break that down this way. The NATO operation in place for 216 days. That's $5 million a day of American money, $5 million a day for 216 days.

Where did that money go? Well, those costs include this: daily military operations, the involvement of the troops and other -- other military personnel involved, the cost of all the munitions used and dropped on Libya, including things dropped from Predators, things fired from ships and the like. Also humanitarian assistance to Libya included in that $1.1 billion.

And the weapons that we used, more than 70 U.S. aircraft were involved in this operation. Early on many U.S. ships. But after the United States pulled back a bit, one Navy ship there for the duration, the Mesa Verde. More than 7,000 -- more than 7,700, in fact -- flights, sorties by American jets, military operations plus 145 Predator strikes. And that is up to today, one Predator strike involved in that convoy that Gadhafi was in this morning in Sirte.

That, the price to the American taxpayer part of this mission. Remember that number, $1.1 billion, and that's not final. We'll get you a final number.

Up next, a Republican senator who was recently in Libya tells us how he thinks -- how he thinks, in this transition, what could emerge as a strong, pro-U.S. ally.


KING: On the Senate floor today commenting on the death of Muammar Gadhafi, the Illinois Republican senator Mark Kirk, who recently visited Libya, predicted that country could now turn into, quote, "a new, very pro-U.S. ally in the Middle East."

Senator Kirk joins us now from Capitol Hill. Also, back with us CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend, who has been invited to Libya in the past as a guest.

Senator Kirk, I want to come to you first. You recently were there and tonight, there is a defining question, and I want get your take on this. The new transitional government says that Gadhafi was taken alive, and we've shown our viewers and we'll show them again -- these are graphic images and anyone with children in the room might want to turn them away.

He was taken alive, and then we see the video. It shows clearly, and you see it here, that he was shot in the head. He has a bullet wound in the forehead. The transitional government says they were driving him somewhere and a fight broke out between pro-Gadhafi and the transitional government forces, and he was in that. He was wounded in that cross fire. There are questions tonight as to whether he was executed.

Do you trust the transitional council's explanation?

SEN. MARK KIRK (R), ILLINOIS: I think it really doesn't matter. He gave no quarter to hundreds of Libyans that he killed. Human rights abuses OUT the ying-yang, including his wife pouring scalding water on their nanny, now recovering from third-degree burns in Malta. And so if he was killed at the hands of his own people, it's pretty much what he deserved.

KING: Do you think that is true, Fran, in this case? I don't think anyone is going to cry any tears for Muammar Gadhafi, no matter how he died, except for maybe his own family members.

But in the sense of the credibility of this new government as it tries to start up, the tribal factions and disputes within Libya. Isn't it important for this new government to get it right from the beginning?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: John, I don't disagree with Senator Kirk that there's not going to be tears shed, but they do have to now form a government and institute the rule of law, and they've got to have the credibility with the Libyan people to do that.

Look, I don't think anybody ought to be spending a whole lot of time trying to figure out what happened, because I don't think it matters. But I do think going forward, if there is a sense that he was treated in a way that it is in violation of human rights not consistent with the rule of law, after all, the transitional government wants to be something better than Gadhafi was and wants to be something better and more credible in the eyes of the Libyan people, obviously, than Muammar Gadhafi.

KING: Another key test there, Kirk, and you were just there, so I want your perspective. You just heard Senator Feinstein, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, say she doesn't have any intelligence yet on the search for these 20,000 surface-to-air missiles. There are other dangerous weapons. There was mustard gas left over.

Are you confident and did you talk to the transitional government about allowing U.S. intelligence assets and military assets and maybe from global partners, as well, to get in there and find that stuff before it ends up in the wrong hands?

KIRK: I did, and there were two stories, one with regard to the chemical weapons stockpile of Gadhafi that I think we have a very good handle on its security and where it is. And because the Libyan rebel government is so pro-U.S. they're working with us well.

But on the case of handheld surface-to-air missiles, in the collapse of the Gadhafi army, his vast arsenal of Soviet weapons was looted, now in the hands of dozens of militias. And this is a big problem for the United States, which is why Secretary of State Clinton outlined a program to buy back or gain jurisdiction of those weapons before they become a worldwide threat to civil aircraft.

KING: Fran, knowing the tribal factions and the tribal rivalries and distrust, how likely are these people to say, "Oh, fine. We'll give them back, get some money from the United States" Or will they want to keep them, whether for civil strife within the country or perhaps to sell on the open market where they might get more?

TOWNSEND: You know, John, the United States government has a long history and lots of experience with these buyback programs for surface-to-air missiles with only mixed success. I mean, one of the places this was a real concern was in Afghanistan, and we know that we've suffered at the hands of these sorts of weapons.

And so I expect the buyback program is a good approach, but we can't kid ourselves that it is the 100 percent solution. Once they are out, this become a real nightmare for all air assets, both civil and military.

KING: Senator Kirk, at this very delicate moment, as this new government tries to get up and running, tries to earn the credibility -- the trust and credibility of its own people as well as the world, what is the single most important thing the United States should do tomorrow?

KIRK: No. 1, to help the Libyan government unify its military so the 24 separate militias in Tripoli don't break out into sectarian warfare, ruining the tremendous gain that we've given. And No. 2, to help elections quickly so that this technocratic, academic government of Jalil and Jibril win elections and we don't see the rise of an Islamic party.

KING: And Senator, I want to stick with you. Any fears on your part that in six months we'll be having an Egypt conversation, saying where's the progress?

KIRK: We could. I think the big problem in the Middle East is Egypt and three elections. We could see an Islamic government there by next April.

Indications are not in Libya, though. Overwhelming support for the United States and the rebel government. I think they should trigger early elections to lock in their current popularity.

KING: Fran, as we wind down the hour, as someone who has been in the room with Muammar Gadhafi, he is dead tonight. I think "good riddance" is the answer from most of the world. How will you remember this heinous man, I'll use that term?

TOWNSEND: You know, John, it was the -- your -- my interaction with him really made clear in my mind that he was completely narcissistic and completely self-absorbed. He didn't care about his people. He didn't seem to care about the country, the infrastructure.

And it was really striking to me that a leader could be so removed and so cold and callous to his own people. And so, look, that's what I took away from it. He was not a rational negotiator. He wasn't a rational leader and frankly, he was most of the time not tied to reality.

KING: And Senator, in closing, are you convinced now that he is dead, that anyone who stood with him is gone, they will fade away? Or will this new government still have problems with pro-Gadhafi people?

KIRK: No, I think he's gone. And when I was in Tripoli, there was an enormous fear that somehow he could make a comeback.

I think Jalil, the chairman, Jibril, the prime minister, they're all now reassured, and so they can focus 100 percent of their attention on building a new pro-American democracy.

KING: Senator Mark Kirk, appreciate your insights. 

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