Transcript: Sen. Kit Bond on 'FNS'

Written by Chris Wallace / Published January 04, 2010 / Fox News Sunday

The following is a rush transcript of the January 3, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Joining us now to continue our coverage of the response to the attempted Christmas day massacre is Kit Bond, top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

And, Senator, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

SEN. KIT BOND, R-MO.: Always a pleasure, Chris.

WALLACE: You just heard John Brennan. Your reaction to the decision to close the U.S. embassy in Yemen?

BOND: Concerns me that we're saying we're going to work closely with the Yemenese, but we're closing the embassy. We didn't close the embassy in Kabul or embassy in Baghdad.

Now, I have not been briefed on any of the latest intelligence, but it seems to me if we're going in there and going to work, there ought to be one place where we have a platform from which the Americans can work.

But again, I haven't seen all the classified information. I hope to do that the first of this coming week.

WALLACE: Can you add anything to what Mr. Brennan said about the strength of Al Qaeda in Yemen and how serious the threat is of more terror attacks against the west coming from Yemen?

BOND: I think there's no question that we have been watching Yemen for some time. And this is where we see great dangers coming. And the fact is, as the president admitted, that the Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula operating out of Yemen has trained these terrorists, some of them Gitmo graduates.

And if we don't stop the practice of releasing Gitmo detainees to Yemen or to other countries — and some of them came through Yemen through Saudi Arabia — we're asking for even more trouble. And I think there ought to be an immediate halt put to releases from Gitmo.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you to pick up on that, because as you just heard Mr. Brennan say, even after the Christmas day attempted massacre that the Obama administration intends to continue transferring detainees from Gitmo to Yemen on a case-by-case basis. Your reaction? BOND: I am very disturbed by that. Everybody ought to admit that the Bush administration made a big mistake in transferring these detainees, these terrorists, back to other countries.

Saudi Arabia was supposed to have an excellent program of rehabilitation. Eleven of their rehabilitation graduates have been captured or killed on the battlefield.

And I have asked the director of national intelligence what's the — what's the scorecard for 2009. We knew through 2008 there were 61 Gitmo guys that had gone back to terrorism. And it's classified. They won't release it. We need to know.

WALLACE: Even to you as the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee?

BOND: I hope that I could get it, but it should be declassified for the public. I understand there — that it is — it's a troubling report. I have not seen it. I hope to see it. But more importantly, I think the American people need to see it.

WALLACE: Is there anything — I know you and a number of other senators of both parties feel strongly about this releasing detainees to Yemen or to other countries. Is there anything that Congress can do to stop it?

BOND: Well, we were trying to stop bringing Gitmo detainees to the United States, but in the last bill that was passed, the majority removed that constraint.

We have 40 members of our party in the Senate and a number of Democrats who want to work with us. I hope that we might be able to do that. But I think the Bush administration has been shown to have made a mistake. I hope the Obama administration will learn from that and not continue to commit the same mistake.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about another — I suspect you're going to say it's a mistake. Do you think it was a mistake to charge Abdulmutallab as a criminal defendant?

BOND: Clearly. As you said in your interview, as soon as they got a lawyer, he lawyered up. Now, they may be able to negotiate over a period of months or years some kind of deal in which he gives them some information.

But we have the ability — or we had the ability in the previous administration to interrogate detainees following the laws and the Constitution, not torturing them, but getting information from them.

And this man, Abdulmutallab, probably has more insight into possible other recruits that Al Qaeda would be sending into the United States. And they may be coming. And we need to know from him or from others what he knows and who they are.

We even brought in the pirate from Somalia and put him in the — in the civilian courts. We should have treated him as an enemy combatant, because those pirates are feeding money to the Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. We need to treat them as enemy combatants and get information from them.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about that, because you're suggesting, and Mr. Brennan certainly did, that there's a real possibility that there are more jihadis, jihadist terrorists, who are being trained right now in Yemen to come to this country.

How much harder is it going to be to get that information on a timely basis out of Abdulmutallab with him as a criminal suspect, criminal defendant, rather than an enemy combatant?

BOND: Any criminal lawyer has to tell him he has to be quiet, he has to shut up until months from now, maybe years from now, they come forth with a deal saying, "Well, if you'll tell us who your handlers were, who the other people were, we will limit you — limit your charges."

We should have held him as an enemy combatant, tried him under the military commissions. The Supreme Court upheld that when we caught German saboteurs in the United States, tried them as enemy combatants.

WALLACE: That was, of course, during World War II.

BOND: In World War II. That was a Supreme Court case. Fourth Circuit upheld it in the — Jose Padilla's case. We can question them and try them in a — in a military commission approved by Congress as recently as 2009.

WALLACE: Your Senate Intelligence Committee has announced that you're going to hold hearings into the terrorist would-be attack as well as these alleged failures in our ability to prevent it starting on January 21st.

In announcing the hearings and the investigation, you said the following, and let's put it up, "Somebody screwed up big-time." Senator, any thoughts about who screwed up?

BOND: That's what we want to find out. It probably should have been plural. I have didn't think at the time of making it plural. There are probably a number of people who screwed up.

How was the information shared? Did the information get in? Do we have adequate means of — do we have a system in the National Counterterrorism Center of making sure that the — that all the information relative to a single suspect or a single activity can be collated? Can we get it out to the agency that needs it?

We may need more I.T., better information systems. But with all of the — with all of the leads dangling out there, somebody screwed up on not reporting it. And clearly, the screening was a disaster. That's homeland security's area.

WALLACE: Right. Well, let's talk about that. The president has repeatedly said that he intends to hold government officials, top government officials at all levels, accountable.

You heard on this — just a moment ago Mr. Brennan praising several top officials — let's put them on the screen — Secretary Napolitano...

BOND: Right.

WALLACE: ... intelligence chief Blair, CIA director Panetta. Question: Have you lost confidence in any of those?

BOND: Well, I work very closely with Leon Panetta and Admiral Blair. I think — I think they're doing the best job they can.

The problem with the director of national intelligence, Denny Blair — he has all of the responsibility and not enough authority. I voted against the bill because he does not have the ability to control all the elements of the I.C.

I don't — I have not worked with Secretary Napolitano, but when she said that a terrorist act should be called a man-caused disaster, or when she said recently the system worked perfectly, I think it raised a lot of eyebrows. But that — those statements — misstatements are certainly not grounds to relieve her. I think we need to find out what really happened.

WALLACE: Finally, I want to talk with you, as I did with Mr. Brennan, about politics, because former vice president Cheney and a number of top Republicans have really gone after this administration for its response to — after Christmas day and suggested that this is another example of Democrats being soft on terror.

But let's go through the record, if we can. It took President Bush six days to react to the shoe bomber Richard Reid. It was the Bush administration that set up this Terror Watch System. And several of the Guantanamo detainees, as you pointed out, who ended up in Yemen were released under President Bush.

Don't Republicans have plenty to answer for?

BOND: Well, I think that the Bush administration really needs to answer for releasing the detainees to Saudi Arabia and other places. And we've seen that's a mistake. And I know — I'm sure they would admit that's a mistake.

But to continue to make the same mistake would be a tragedy. And I really think that failing to recognize that we are under attack — the Al Qaeda and its related activities and related allies have declares war on us. They're coming after us.

And this is not a case for a series of criminal trials. We tried that in the '90s after the first attack on the World Trade Center, embassy bombings, Cole attack. This is — this is war, and it's time that we reacted to the war attacks that are coming at us.

WALLACE: Senator, thank you.

BOND: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: Thanks, as always, for coming in and bringing us up to speed.

BOND: Real pleasure. Thank you so much, sir.

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