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Transcript: Sens. Feinstein, Bond on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published September 27, 2009 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a rush transcript of the September 27, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: With new developments this week from Iran to Afghanistan to homeland security, we're joined by the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the chairman, Dianne Feinstein, and vice chair, Christopher Bond.
And, Senators, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
SEN. CHRISTOPHER 'KIT' BOND, R-MO.: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Let's start with Iran and the disclosure that it has been building a secret nuclear enrichment facility.
Let me start with you, Senator Feinstein. How strong is the evidence that this is to provide fuel for a bomb? And how sure are we that there aren't other secret facilities in Iran?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: Well, the evidence is strong that there was — that there is such a facility, that it's capable of about 3,000 various — oh, I've lost the word.
FEINSTEIN: — centrifuges. We don't know that it's for enrichment to HEU precisely...
WALLACE: Highly enriched uranium.
FEINSTEIN: Yes. But we've known it's been there. I think what the three countries have done — the United States, United Kingdom, France — is a very straightforward charge to Iran to sit down this next week, to be open to negotiate a solution and to do so.
And I think this is the moment of decision for Iran. Iran can either make itself a pariah, or it can recognize that it has much more to gain by eliminating any potential military aspects of a nuclear program and seeing that all peaceful aspects of a nuclear program are carefully inspected and supervised.
WALLACE: Let me follow up on that, if I can, with you, Senator Bond, because just this morning the Iranians have test-fired two short-range missiles, which seems to be another provocation.
Now, the U.S. — as Senator Feinstein said, the U.S. and our allies are going to meet with the Iranians Thursday to try to get them to stop their nuclear program or face economic sanctions.
How confident are you that even if we can get the Russians and the Chinese on board for sanctions that the Iranians will stand down, that they'll stop their nuclear program, especially in light of this new provocation?
BOND: First, I — we have seen now Iran three times lied to us about what they were doing. They've been caught in bald-faced lies.
Now, the facility they've set up potentially could be for peaceful purposes. But why was it so heavily guarded? Why was it surrounded by the elite Iranian Republican Guard? Why did they deny its existence?
Today's action in firing the missiles is really a poke in the eye to those who think that diplomatic efforts and agreements and inspections are going to change the way that Iran is going.
I think, as the "Show-Me State" senator, they've shown us enough, much of it through speeches by Ahmadinejad saying, "We're going to wipe Israel off the face of the earth." He has launched the missiles to show that they are taking seriously their threat.
WALLACE: So are you saying you don't think sanctions are going to work?
BOND: Oh, I think sanctions — we have to have sanctions, and we have to have sanctions — strong sanctions, economic sanctions that can force either regime change or the ayatollahs to change their policy.
I'm a co-sponsor of a measure by Senator Lieberman to give the power to the president to impose sanctions on company — on tankers taking refined petroleum to Iran. That's something we can do, along with Treasury sanctions. But we need Russia and China — real question whether they will actually go along.
WALLACE: Let me take this another way, Senator Feinstein. Defense Secretary Gates says that even if we launched a military strike, he thinks it would only buy us one to three more years, buy us a little more time, but only a couple of years, if Iran is determined to continue its nuclear program.
Do you share Secretary Gates' pessimism about the effectiveness of military action?
FEINSTEIN: I do. We have been told that specifically. And I think you can slow it down. Whether you can stop it or not entirely, I think, is unknown. The facilities are in several different places. Some are hardened, underground, in tunnels.
You'd have to have a ground operation as well as a military operation, and that's very difficult to do. It would be an attack on a...
WALLACE: You mean troops on the ground in addition to...
WALLACE: ... to an air strike.
FEINSTEIN: ... I think so, to get into some of them, to really penetrate them, so — that's not to say that a nation can't try to stop it. It is to say that it is a much better alternative to sit down and negotiate.
There's nothing positive for Iran becoming a military nuclear power for any country in the world. It becomes a major pariah, a major threat, and I think in the Middle East it creates enormous and potentially catastrophic consequences.
WALLACE: Let me turn, if we...
BOND: Well, I would agree with that. And I think that the election riots and the continuing unrest in Iran shows that there's a significant body of Iranian people who don't like the direction that they're going.
And that's why I think that strong economic sanctions, which have to be applied by the world community, not just us — we can make an impact — are the best way to go.
Nobody wants to see us use military power but, as Senator Feinstein said, a nuclear-armed Iran would be a disaster for the world.
WALLACE: Let's turn to Afghanistan, where we learned this week that the president's — President Obama's commander on the ground, General McChrystal, is warning that if he doesn't get more troops, our mission there will likely result in failure.
But the White House is saying not so fast. I want to take you both, Senators, back to six months ago today when the president made this announcement:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today I'm announcing a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have a clear and focused goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Bond, now, just six months later, President Obama says he wants another strategy review, at least — we learned today from the national security adviser, at least five meetings over several weeks, no deadline, and that in the end he may reject his commander's urgent request.
Senator Bond, is that being flexible or being indecisive?
BOND: I'm afraid it's being indecisive. I supported President Obama very strongly when he came out six months ago and when he gave General McChrystal the charge to launch a full-blown counterinsurgency strategy like the one we launched — finally launched successfully under General Petraeus in Iraq. It brought us to the progress we have seen.
Dithering right now and delaying troops, as General McChrystal — and I spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon reading his assessment, which is very thorough, and he lays out the fact that we need resources, troops, now, because the next nine to 12 months will be decisive.
We are not going to get the Afghan national security forces built up in that time. We need to move their training forward. But we have to have troops...
WALLACE: I have to — you said dithering. Is that what you believe the president's doing?
BOND: I'm afraid that for some reason he is — he has the answer that he asked — the question he asked of General McChrystal. It is here. It is clear. It is in great detail, outlines a full range of things, why we need troops.
We need troops now. And he said if we fail to provide that assistance now, it will be too late.
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, I want to play a clip from Secretary of State Clinton this week where she was asked about and discussed Senator — or, rather, General McChrystal's request for more troops. Here it is:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: There are other assessments from, you know, very expert military analysts who have worked in counterinsurgencies that are the exact opposite.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now, we're talking about the president's commander on the ground whom he personally assigned to this mission six years ago. Should he just be one of a group of analysts who the president consults on the strategy review?
FEINSTEIN: No, of course not, and he isn't. He has submitted a full- blown counterinsurgency structure, strategy, tactics. I've read it, too. To me, it's a 10-year plan.
I think the president is correct to take his time, to really examine what the alternatives are at this time. True, the Afghanistan strategy so far has not gone well. True, about one-third of Afghanis are now living under some form of Taliban control. That is untenable.
True, there is some nexus between Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
True, that represents a threat to the homeland of the United States and, therefore, creates a mission that's important for the United States.
Also true that you have a central government which is unreliable and not very competent in Afghanistan. I'll just leave it at that.
Now, the question comes is there an alternative to this long- term, comprehensive, full-blown counterinsurgency strategy which he has laid out. I hope there is, because I do not believe the American people want to be in Afghanistan for the next 10 years, effectively nation-building, building schools, building a government, doing...
WALLACE: Let me — let me pick up on this. And I know this is something that you feel very strongly about, Senator. Should General McChrystal be called to testify before Congress? Or should it wait until after the strategy review, which is what Secretary of Defense Gates says?
BOND: We've waited too many months now. And he said it is absolutely critical. I think that General McChrystal has presented a viewpoint that has been thoroughly discussed among all of the people who are on the ground and know what's happening.
I believe, based on all I've learned and all I've heard, anything short of fully resourcing a counterinsurgency strategy with additional troops, a change in philosophy, a change to focus on the local areas...
WALLACE: But why have him testify when the civilian leadership hasn't decided what to do?
BOND: Because we're part of that process as well. And I think the American people deserve to know in a little bit shorter form what he has said.
There are — there are pundits on the outside who say we can do something different. But let me tell you this. From everything I've heard and everything I've learned, short of a — the full-blown strategy that McChrystal has outlined — if we try just shooting at — shooting at terrorists and going back to the camp, then the Taliban will come back over the border from Pakistan.
They will bring with them their friends in Al Qaeda and they will re- establish Taliban control of Afghanistan, which is a disaster for us and the region.
WALLACE: I want to move on to something else, but I just have to ask you to respond quickly. Do you think that Senator — that General McChrystal should testify before the president has made up his mind?
FEINSTEIN: I think it's always useful to hear different points of view. I don't have a problem with that. But look. The president is the commander in chief. He should take his time and do the right thing here, whatever that may be.
I do not believe — you know, the election in Afghanistan has not been concluded. How it ends, the strength of the central government — that's very important to the mission. And you know, if Karzai doesn't shape up, a lot of people have questions as to whether anything can really be a success in that country.
WALLACE: Let's — let me move on. There have been at least three separate terror attacks that have been uncovered here in the U.S. in just the last week. Now, several provisions in the Patriot Act are set to expire at the end of the year.
Senator Bond, is this any time to take weapons away from our agencies that are protecting the homeland?
BOND: Clearly, it's not. And the weapons that are under — the tools that are under discussion are vitally important tools in discovering and exposing and attacking these terrorist acts.
And you didn't add the one of the North Carolina people who were planning to attack Quantico. So there really have been — there are four. That shows the existence of American citizens who have been trained in Pakistan who are threatening our country.
And the tools in the Patriot Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that I worked on for the last couple years, are absolutely critical tools now. We must have them. We can't weigh them down with any more delaying procedures.
WALLACE: We've got about a minute left.
Senator Feinstein, I'm going to throw one other thing into the hopper. The White House is now acknowledging they almost certainly are not going to meet their deadline by next January for closing the prison at Guantanamo.
And there is a story today that indicates they are close to making a decision to send some of the detainees, the 223 detainees, to locations here in the U.S. Will Congress allow that?
FEINSTEIN: Well, as you know, I'm one that believes very strongly Guantanamo should be closed, and I believe it can be done.
I'm also one that's somewhat familiar with the prison structure in the United States. And I know that there are maximum security prisons from which no one escapes in the United States, which are isolated from neighborhoods.
And no one is going to put these people in anyone's neighborhood, as some have tried to say.
WALLACE: So you'll be OK with having some of these detainees in California?
FEINSTEIN: Yes. In a maximum security prison, I don't worry about it, provided the prison is set up to accommodate it, and I believe we have facilities that are.
WALLACE: Senator Bond, you get the last word.
BOND: I — this is one of the areas on which Senator Feinstein and I disagree. I think Guantanamo is the best place to hold these hardened criminals. We don't want to put them in our general prison population where they have and will radicalize other prisoners.
They will draw their friends in Al Qaeda to come into the area from the outside. I wouldn't mind seeing them at Alcatraz, but my California friends have minimum amount of high enthusiasm for that.
But if they're sick, they're transferred to the federal Springfield, Missouri medical facility in my state, and my constituents and I think that would be a very bad idea.
WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, Senator bond, I want to thank you both so much for coming in, discussing these very important issues with us. Please come back, both of you.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.
BOND: Just ask. We'll be back. Thank you very much.
WALLACE: All right. We'll do it. It's a date.
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This week: We'll have an exclusive interview with Sen James Lankford (R-OK), member of the Appropriations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.