This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 13, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I want to be ver y clear that we are resolved to halt the rise of privacy (sic) in that region.
And to achieve that goal, we will have to continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks. We have to continue to be prepared to confront them when they arise. And we have to ensure that those who com mit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes.
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BAIER: President Obama promising action against piracy, not "privacy," one day after Navy Seals shot and killed three Somali pirates who had been holding and then pointing an AK-47 at the back of American Captain Richard Phillips.
The captain of the Maersk Alabama cargo freighter was rescued by the Seals unharmed. A fourth pirate surrendered and may be tried in the U.S.
As you look at the aerial shot, these Navy Seal sharpshooters took out these three pirates from the USS Bainbridge. That's the lifeboat there that the captain was being held in, and the Bainbridge just a few yards away.
So what about the developments over the past day, and what will this administration do about the growing problem of piracy around the Horn of Africa going forward?
Let's bring in our panel — Bill Kristol, editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer - Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, what do we do with pirates? We shoot them. That appears to be the American way, and it rather works, if you have an opportunity.
I think this is very important because it is the kind of a deterrent. It doesn't deter all of the piracy, obviously, but it does tell a pirate, if you have a choice of ships, stay away from the U.S. Navy, which is good. "Don't tread on me" is a good lesson.
Secondly, the question is what do you do for the future? I think the idea of the United States organizing an international sort of agreement or sort of a committee, or some kind of concerted action, is not going to happen.
There are only two options — a, you arm the ships, which is a passive mode, but I think it might be the most effective. The most effective is to attack the lairs — that's the word you use for a pirate — they don't have bases. They always have lairs — attack them in Somalia.
But that requires a military operation of some scale at a time when we don't have a lot of slack or spare capacity. We have wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and this is not at that high enough level.
Perhaps at a time of quiet, you would want to mount a campaign in Somalia, but America has a history in Somalia. It's not a happy one.
So I think what America ought to do is to encourage the use of armed guards the way that we have marshals on airplanes, and to continue to send a message that if you attack an American ship, you will likely die.
BAIER: I should point out that I said a few yards. It was about 300 yards away, the USS Bainbridge, and these shots were pretty amazing in rough seas for Navy Seals sharpshooters to take out these three guys with one shot, a kill shot to the head — Mort?
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": The Navy performed spectacularly well in this case. The Captain, Captain Phillips, is a hero if I have ever seen one. I mean, giving himself up to be a hostage to get his men free, and having trained his men on how to resist an attack without benefit of guns, is pretty amazing.
And I think Obama did the right thing. I mean, I was in church with him, the same church on Sunday, and he looked very preoccupied. And now it's apparent why. It's because he was thinking about what was going on off Somalia.
But I agree with Charles — Sea Marshals is the answer. It works on airplanes. Also arming the crew, having certain people on these ships who are trained as sharpshooters and trained to fight back, is the answer. I mean, if the pirates know that they're going to meet with resistance and they're liable to get killed, they're not going to attack.
BAIER: Bill, I have seen some in the mainstream media portray President Obama's decision to authorize the captain of the Bainbridge to use lethal force as somehow his first successful test of foreign policy. What's your take on that?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I'm shocked by Mort and Charles. Haven't you guys learned that force doesn't solve anything, that militarism is a huge problem of U.S. foreign policy, unilateral preemptive action?
We don't know they were going to shoot Captain Phillip, you know. And there were these trigger happy guys authorized by the U.S. government, just killed them without due process. Where were their — they didn't get read their rights first. It was really — we have learned no lessons, obviously, from the Bush years.
And what about the moderate parts of the pirate community?
How are they going to react to this? What about the pirates street?
BAIER: We have learned —
KRISTOL: The pirate street will be up in arms!
BAIER: We have learned about the Kristol sarcasm factor.
KRISTOL: Right. What should we do? I actually do think we need to go in. We don't need to go in on the ground into Somalia, but we need to destroy the pirates' safe havens. It can be done from the air —
KRAUTHAMMER: The lairs.
KRISTOL: The lairs, I know, right. We can have a good anti-lair offensive by the Air Force and the Navy. And the Marines and the army have done a fantastic job in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Air Force and the Navy want to get in the fight, and here's a good chance for them.
We need a little bit of intelligence. But, look, it would make a big difference if the people on the ground, which is what they need, they need the ground support, they need the ground networks, they need the ability to bring the hostages into Somalia to hold them. If we can destroy those lairs and disrupt them, that would be —
BAIER: Will the administration do it? Will the administration do it?
KRISTOL: I think they will. I think it is the only way to be serious about dealing with piracy.
You can put some sea marshals on the ships and arm the merchant ships. That's all fine. I think they'll do it.
Look, it is amazing that these pirates, these so called pirates — in an article today, two of them are quoted by name, "We have decided to kill U.S. hostages in the future." One of them is names Abdullah Ahmed, one of them is named Ali Noor. They even tell which towns they are in in Somalia.
We can find these people, I would think. And we are killing people in the wild lands of Pakistan who are terrorists. Some of these people, if they had an accident due to a cruise missile or due to a predator, or just due to a bomb, that would be a healthy thing, I think, for the pirates.
KONDRACKE: I really do think that this is an opportunity for Obama to test the level of international support that he can get. Wait a minute, just a second. Why not — the French are ready to join us in such an endeavor.
KRISTOL: On Sunday, he didn't call the allies before authorizing the Seals to act. He didn't go to the U.N. Security Council. Mort is very upset about that. Where was that Security Council resolution?
KONDRACKE: No, no. There is an international problem, here. And Obama has great prestige overseas. Why not see what kind of posse he can organize —
BAIER: And there are other hostages from other countries being held.
KRAUTHAMMER: Let me give you a why not.
BAIER: Last word.
KRAUTHAMMER: Because the war in Afghanistan is more important. Al Qaeda is more of a threat. And if you want to waste or use your diplomatic capital, use it on getting the French and the British and the Germans and the Dutch to help us in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. I wouldn't waste it on Somalia.
BAIER: President Obama campaigned against the Bush administration's secrecy policies, but now he is being accused of taking them even further.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My view is that it wasn't OK when the Bush administration did it, and it is not OK when the Obama administration did it.
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BAIER: We'll find out what the panel thinks about the Obama switch after the break.
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KEVIN BANKSTON, ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION: Other than being flat wrong, the Obama administration's position is seriously disappointing to those Americans who listened to candidate Obama's promises of a new era of government accountability and transparency.
BRYAN CUNNINGHAM, FORMER CIA/JUSTICE DEPT. ATTORNEY: I don't know what the critics think happened. I don't know if they think Admiral Blair and Attorney General Holder got sent into the Dick Cheney mind meld machine, or what. But they are either saying — they're wrong, or they're saying they're lying about the facts.
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BAIER: Liberal supporters are up in arms. Why? Because the Obama administration is invoking what's called the "State Secrets Privilege," just like President Bush did to shield eavesdropping programs from public exposure, something Mr. Obama criticized as candidate Obama.
We're back with the panel. Mort, how about this?
KONDRACKE: And it's not just surveillance policy and secrecy policy here as well. The Bagram air base in Afghanistan could well be the new Gitmo. They're taking their prisoners there by rendition, and so on. That policy continues.
And also, the — he's left a loophole in his questioning policy and his interrogation policy to opt for the Jack Bauer option, you know -
BAIER: Of "24" fame.
KONDRACKE: Yes — for intensive interrogation, shall we say, abusive interrogation. So Obama is — when you get into the Oval Office, I have a feeling that the world looks different from the way it looks on the Democratic campaign trail. And you are now responsible for the safety of the American people. And you tend to operate conservatively, if that's the word.
Now, I do think that he owes an explanation to his supporters and to the public about why he changed his mind, and, perhaps, an apology to George Bush.
BAIER: One point of clarification. The Bagram issue is opening up a floodgate because a judge has ruled that three of the detainees there have a right to challenge their detention in civilian courts inside the U.S. Some think that could be a problem for the administration — Bill?
KRISTOL: I'm glad that to the degree that President Obama is not letting ridiculous campaign promises and the demands of the American Civil Liberties Union and people like that to have lawsuits and legalisms prevent an effective defense of the United States citizens against terrorists, I'm very happy that he has moved in that direction.
And if he wants to be a little hypocritical about it, that's fine, too. Hypocrisy is the tribute that liberalism pay to conservatism.
When liberals come into power and come into the Oval Office, as Mort said, and they have to deal with reality and they realize, you know what, you cannot run the world as candidate Obama though. You can't defend the country as candidate Obama thought he could.
KRAUTHAMMER: And that's why I think he won't actually explain in public and do a mea culpa on this, to say he has now changed his mind. He never admits to ever having changed his mind. He never admits to any error. It is always everyone else who commits errors.
And the reason is that he is glib enough and still has enough charisma to play a double game. He goes abroad, and he says "I'm closing Guantanamo," and he gets huge applause. He wallows in that applause. He loves it.
And, of course, as Mort indicates, he is shipping Gitmo east. Bagram will become East Gitmo.
And the same on interrogation. He left a huge loophole, and yet he makes these statements in Europe — "We do not torture," as a way to, of course, have himself stand above Bush and America before him.
That's how he operates. And some of the left wing groups in the Democratic Party are aware of his hypocrisy, but it's not a general impression. All these loopholes are fairly well hidden. And as in this interrogation stuff, he will get away with it.
It's no surprise that a president of any party defends the prerogatives of his office, to defend his office. And also because he likes the power, Obama likes the power, he's going to keep it.
BAIER: Quickly, is there any —
KONDRACKE: A good question for a press conference. This is reaching a crescendo enough on the left, complaints. Enough people are complaining about it that he will be asked about it in a press conference.
BAIER: Note to correspondents from Mort.
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