Interview with Representative Peter King

Interview with Representative Peter King

By The Situation Room - February 17, 2012

CROWLEY: We want to pursue this a little further, because we're now joined by the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Peter King of New York.

Congressman, tell us what do you know about this suspect right now.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Well, as was stated, has been in this country 12 years illegally. He is a Moroccan. He first came, I believe, known to the FBI about a year ago. He was meeting with some people in Arlington, Virginia, I believe. They were talking about jihad. An AK-47 was shown. And then in December of this year, though, he actually met with FBI officials, undercovers. And that's when he said that he wanted to attack military installations, he wanted to attack synagogues and that he wanted to engage in jihad.

And then on -- that was December 1st.

And on December 8th, there was a follow-up meeting he had. And, by the way, that was one day after Joe Lieberman and I held a hearing on the threats against the military in this country by Islamic terrorists.

Sometime in January, I guess, he decided to change from attacking military installations. He wanted to put a bomb in a restaurant that was frequented by military officials. Then he decided on the suicide bombing in the Capitol.

But, again, I agree with everything that's been said. This was under watch from the -- by the FBI from the beginning. No one was ever at risk.

I also agree with Susan Collins, who says this shows how dangerous -- dangerous a threat it is from within this country. I think too many people chose to -- they choose to ignore it or they don't realize the full dimensions of it, act as if this is just one more small incident.

The fact is, as -- if this had been allowed to be carried out, you would have had many Americans killed right in the heart -- right in our nation's Capitol. And apart from the tragedy, what a signal that would have sent to the world.

CROWLEY: Tell me this, does it not, in some ways, as scary as this -- and -- and reading the affidavit is -- is pretty darned scary, when you see how his mind was working and what he wanted to do and what he plotted. But this is, in some ways, our intelligence community and our law enforcement community getting it right, correct?

KING: Absolutely. The FBI has done a phenomenal job.

My only concern is, though, when I hear people saying that -- whether it's the FBI or the NYPD, that they're being too aggressive, that the threat is not as great as they think it is.

No, listen, if the FBI is allowed to do what it has to do, if the NYPD, other law enforcement agencies, are allowed to do what they have to do, then we are going to -- we have a much better chance of being safe.

My concern is if people start to lose interest, if there's political pressure brought to back off on these investigations. These type of sting operations are absolutely essential, because al Qaeda has a very difficult time from attacking us from outside. And so what you have is either people recruited by al Qaeda within the country or you have self-radicalized jihadists who are under the radar screen. That's where the main threat comes from right now.

CROWLEY: Were you briefed about this beforehand? Did you know anything about this operation?

KING: No, I did not. I've been in several FBI briefings this week. This was not brought up. I was told about it right afterwards. I got all of the details. I -- listen, I -- I have no problem with that. I'm not here to play cops and robbers. You know, they're the professionals. So long as long as I'm updated on what has happened and know all the, you know, what the FBI plans on doing, that -- that's fine. I don't have to be told day by day what's happening.

But I certainly, within a very short time, received all the details that I needed on this.

CROWLEY: I know that you have held several hearings on a variety of issues dealing with terrorism from within, that is, people who are already here, not people who are flying to the US. And, you know, I wonder if you can give me some kind of picture of how many sorts of these operations are underway. It does seem that we've heard, in past instances, a lot about these undercover agents.

Is this a -- is this fairly -- and I hate to use the word routine, but is it?

Or is it out of the ordinary?

KING: No. This is the type of threat we have to expect. We've had a number of them in New York. We've had a number in Washington and Northern Virginia. And the FBI is constantly monitoring this type of activity. Many of these turn out to be nothing, but others turn out to be potentially very serious, as in this case.

Certainly we have it in New York on a large scale basis.

Now we have an added element coming up, and that's with Hezbollah, in that -- well, not coming up, it's right there now. We have the intelligence community very concerned about that. So you have the al Qaeda sympathizers, plus you have Hezbollah.

But, you know, our police and FBI, everywhere in New York, Downstate New York, Long Island, the FBI, police departments across the country are so much alert and attuned to what could be happening. And if they're allowed to do their job, they will go such a long way toward protecting us.

This is what they live with every day. While, Candy, you know, when you and I go home and we can, you know, relax with some of our friends, the police are going 24/7, worried about these type plots and these type threats.

CROWLEY: So there is not a -- a doubt in your mind that law enforcement -- and however you define that, from, you know, local cops all -- all the way up to the CIA, if they're allowed to do their job, they're up to the task of finding what is really pretty difficult, which are individuals, as opposed to anyone tied to a group?

KING: Absolutely. I -- they -- again, they -- they have full-time squads and units working on this, whether is Nassau County, Suffolk County, New York City, state police and FBI. Then you have the CIA working, you know, with the DNI and all the other agencies, the NSA. It's there.

I mean they -- if they are allowed to do their job -- hey, there's no guarantee. I mean sooner or later, the bad guys are going to get through. We have to expect that may happen.

But the fact is that as much as humanly possible, our law enforcement agencies can do the job, if we get off their back and stop complaining, the way too many groups do.

CROWLEY: And just quickly, if I could, how did you find out about this arrest?

Was it a briefing?

KING: No. I found out -- I was actually on a plane to New York. When I got off the plane, I had several phone calls telling me what -- you know, what had happened.

CROWLEY: Got you.

OK, thank you so much.

The chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

KING: Thank you, Candy. 

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