From Criminal to Candidate

This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson and Heather Nauert," December 11, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HEATHER NAUERT, CO-HOST: It's a big issue today on Capitol Hill, and that is torture. CIA Director Michael Hayden is testifying today and tomorrow behind closed doors to Senate and House committees about the interrogations of terror suspects.

Lawmakers want to know more about the destruction of tapes in some of those intense Q&A sessions. The White House says that Hayden won't be revealing any techniques used to get detainees to talk, but insists that the U.S. does not torture.

JOHN GIBSON, CO-HOST: Meanwhile, a former high ranking U.S. Army officer who was charged with using harsh interrogation tactics in Iraq is now generating a lot of new buzz about himself. The retired lieutenant colonel is not only proud of his criminal record, he hopes it will help him serve his country again as an elected politician.

"Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy spoke to the Florida Republican today — Douglas.

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Lieutenant Colonel Allen West says he protected his men in Iraq. Similarly, he said he would do it again and he wants to protect his country now in the United States Congress.


KENNEDY (voice-over): In August, 2003, Lieutenant Colonel Allen West was serving in Iraq and received word a local police officer was working with Sunni insurgents who were going to attack his troops sometime in the next 24 hours.

LT. COLONEL ALLEN WEST, U.S. ARMY (RET.): And we were able to pick him up. We turned him over to the interrogators.

KENNEDY: But the interrogators couldn't get the officer to talk. West took out his pistol.

NEAL PUCKETT, LT. COLONEL WEST'S ATTORNEY: He ended up firing a pistol into a barrel, a weapons clearing barrel near the head of the Iraqi policeman, and immediately afterward, the Iraqi policeman gave up all the information we needed. He understood the urgency of the situation to protect this man, to acquire information. He acquired the information, took these guys off the streets, and his men weren't attacked.

KENNEDY: Still, the military charged West with aggravated assault for the mock execution. He pled guilty, was fined $5,000, and was forced to retire.

WEST: I love the Army and their soldiers. And I love the fact that for 20 years I've been a soldier.

KENNEDY: But rather than running from his criminal past, West is now running for Congress...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colonel Allen West.

KENNEDY: ... on a national security platform in Florida.

WEST: It's about taking a stand for the country, and I think that the entire episode in 2003 will let people know the measure of a man that I am.

KENNEDY: West is a Republican and is running for a seat held by a Republican for 26 years.

REP. RON KLEIN (D), FLORIDA: How are you? Ron Klein.

KENNEDY: That is, up until last year, when Democrat Ron Klein defeated Clay Shaw, in one of 2006's closest congressional races. The district encompasses parts of Palm Beach and Broward County and has a slew of Independents who West is hoping may turn out to be the Jack Bauer vote, swing voters who value national security above all else.

WEST: I am not about self. I am about service to my country, service to my soldiers for the 22 years that I was a soldier. And now this is all about serving your country, just in a different uniform.

KENNEDY: West is also running on closing our borders to illegal and achieving energy independence, both of which he says are also national security issues.

WEST: Both of them open us up to allow the enemy to infiltrate us in ways that seemingly we don't understand. They cross our borders, and also funding through the petrol dollars that are used to promulgate terrorist ideology all over the world.


KENNEDY: Obviously West's candidacy is controversial. But he says when it comes to terrorism, he knows what has to be done. And he knows, John and Heather, from personal experience.

GIBSON: So Douglas, this guy, I mean, we call him the torture candidate. That's probably a little unfair to him. Landslide victory?

KENNEDY: Very unlikely in this district, John. This is a swing district, and it's always, always very tight. He just announced his candidacy. He has got about $25,000 in the bank. His opponent has got about a million dollars. So...

GIBSON: But interrogation is a hot topic right now.

KENNEDY: It is a hot topic. And if people want to feel protected by people who torture, they will vote for him.

GIBSON: Quite an elbow there, Douglas. OK, Douglas. Thanks.

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