Rep. Peter King on the Threat From Iran

Rep. Peter King on the Threat From Iran

By The Situation Room - October 26, 2011

BLITZER: A high ranking Republican in the House is calling an alleged Iranian plot to attack targets here in the United States, quote, "a declaration of war." He's making a dramatic accusation and calling for Iranian officials to be expelled from the United States.

And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Representative Peter King of New York. He's the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You dropped the bombshell today at your hearing. You said you want all Iranian diplomats serving in the United States to be expelled, to be kicked out because they're spying really. What's going on here? What are you talking about?

KING: Basically, Wolf, Iranians have diplomats in New York, at least people assigned to the mission in the New York. They also have diplomats in Washington, D.C. I am very convinced from people I've been speaking to really over the last several years that within those groups are people who are one involved with terrorist forces back in Iran. Others are obviously involved in attempting to do espionage in this country.

I'll give you an example. In New York several years ago, had to expel several people from the Iranian office there found to be taking photos and pictures of New York city subway and transit system, which we seen by the NYPD, they were scoping it out and there was a planning of a possible terror attack. So, they are serving no real purpose here in this country other than advancing Iran's interest.

And the main reason I wanted to do it is that what Iran did as far as planning its attack in Washington, D.C. against an ambassador, which they realize could have caused the deaths of hundreds of Americans, that was a declaration really of war against the United States, an act of war against the United States.

A for us just to increase sanctions or to attempt to take diplomatic action, I don't think it would really strike the severe tone. We have it make it clear this was a game changer. They jumped across a red line here. I think by expelling diplomats that would send a clear message. There are other things we can do also. But --

BLITZER: Let me get to some other things in a moment, but how many diplomats are you talking about? How many Iranian diplomats are accredited at the United Nations? How many are working here in Washington D.C. in the Iranian interest section, which is part, technically, of the Pakistani embassy?

KING: I don't know the exact amount. I would say we're probably talking like 40, 50 that I would have concern about. I'm trying to get the exact numbers. But we, to me, should get rid of either all of them or most and send a clear signal. In New York we know that those attacked at the U.N. supposedly to assist in U.N. activities were actually being used to plan activities against New York were out taking photos. Certainly those here in Washington, we have very good reason to believe are involved in spying and surveillance, that type of thing.

BLITZER: Doesn't the U.S. have responsibilities, international legal responsibilities as the host country to the United Nations in New York that it can't simply kick out diplomats accredited to the U.N.? The Iranian mission is obviously accredited to the U.N.

KING: I would say that under these conditions, because of Iran actively plotting against the United States to carry out activities in the U.S. against us, terrorist activities, acts of war against the United States, that the United States clearly within its legal rights to expel those officials from Washington, D.C. and from the United Nations.

BLITZER: This alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador was part two of the plot you had a couple of weeks to get more information, also to blow up the Saudi as Israeli embassies here in Washington. Was that just idle chatter, or was there something serious there?

KING: I can't go into all the details. I will say I've seen that totality of evidence and I can say that there clearly it's buttressed to all sides. To totality of evidence both individually and together says that attacks such as this will be planned. I know from talk to foreign diplomats -- I'm trying to see what I can say here that I didn't hear actually in the briefing. From talking to foreign diplomats in a secure setting, I've been told clearly there are attacks planned upon ambassadors. We know there are attacks planned against the Saudis and also the taking of American lives in Washington.

BLITZER: Just to be precise, these Iranian diplomats are in New York and Washington. Do you have hard evidence they were actually plotting to undertake terrorist operations inside the United States?

KING: I'm saying they clearly have ties to those in Iran who do those things. We know this from common sense and observation, from talking to people in the community that these people, whether it's actual terrorist activities or dealing with other countries or just facilitating activities with them or with Hezbollah, the fact is they are over here for an ulterior purpose, not diplomacy. It's to advance Iran's interest and, as I said, there have been instances in the past where we've actually caught them doing it, but from people I've spoken to, in the intelligence and law enforcement community.

There's no doubt at all that there's the purpose. They're here also in view of their links and their membership back in Iran.

BLITZER: Peter King is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much.

KING: Wolf, thank you. 

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