Transcript: Sen. Specter, Rep. King on 'FNS'

The following is a partial transcript of the June 25, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: With the news this week about another secret White House program in the War on Terror and a new fight among Republicans over immigration reform, we want to talk with two key players on both issues. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is in Philadelphia, and Pete King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is in our New York studio.

Gentlemen, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday".

REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y.: Good morning, Chris.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, R-PA.: Nice to be with you, thank you.

WALLACE: Let's start with the revelation this week that the Bush administration has for years been tracking the financial transactions of terrorist organizations.

Senator Specter, you have been very critical of the NSA warrantless wiretap program, saying that without judicial review it is a, quote, "blotch on America". Do you have the same concerns about this program?

SPECTER: The tracing of the bank records is different. Since the program broke on Friday, my staff and I have been doing some research, and it appears preliminarily that the same kind of a privacy interest, Chris, does not attach to bank records which does to conversations.

I believe that there needs to be judicial oversight on wiretapping, where you hear conversations, where there is an expectation of privacy, and that is different from the bank records.

And we're getting close with the discussions with the White House, I think, to having the wiretapping issue submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Now, respect to the bank records, I think we need to know more. We just have a newspaper report and, frankly, that's not sufficient for congress to discharge its congressional responsibility for constitutional oversight.

We're having the attorney general in in a couple of weeks, and we'll have a chance to get into this program and have some oversight, which I think will be effective.

WALLACE: I don't want to get too much into the weeds, and I want to bring Congressman King into this, but you did say something there that I thought was — several things I thought were interesting. One was that you indicate that the White House may be willing to submit the NSA warrantless wiretap program to the FISA court?

SPECTER: Well, we're having a lot of conversations about that. After the vice president and I exchanged some letters, he said he was serious about discussions. We've had discussions. And I've talked to ranking officials in the White House, and we're close.

I'm not making any predictions until you have it all nailed down, but I think there is an inclination to have it submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and that would be a big step forward for protection of constitutional rights and civil liberties.

WALLACE: And secondly, Senator Specter, you talk about the fact that you want to exercise congressional oversight. Briefly, does that mean that you want Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on this financial tracking, or the so-called Swift program?

SPECTER: Well, I'm not prepared to move to hearings yet. First, I want to have the attorney general on the record to find out what we can from him. That's a very high-level hearing. We need to know the specifics.

It's not enough, Chris, as I know you understand, to read about it in the newspapers. We need to know what the program is, how far it is. When the report is made about administrative subpoenas, that is a form of a legal process.

But to make a really proper evaluation, we need to know more, even though there is not the same privacy interest in bank records.

WALLACE: Congressman King, let me bring you in on this as well. From what you know, do you have any problems with the Swift program, this tracking of financial records? And what about the argument that even if it was an emergency after 9/11, that five years after the fact, this has become a permanent program, and that you should get approval from the courts and Congress?

KING: Chris, I think the administration acted entirely appropriately. The 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case gives them, to me, the absolute right to do this. They're in full compliance with all statutes.

To me, the real question here is the conduct of The New York Times. By disclosing this in time of war, they have compromised America's antiterrorist policies. This is a very effective policy. They have compromised it. This is the second time The New York Times has done this.

And to me, nobody elected The New York Times to do anything. And The New York Times is putting its own arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda before the interests of the American people.

And I'm calling on the attorney general to begin a criminal investigation and prosecution of The New York Times, its reporters, the editors that worked on this, and the publisher. We're in time of war, Chris, and what they've done here is absolutely disgraceful. I believe they violated the Espionage Act, the Comint Act.

This is absolutely disgraceful. The time has come for the American people to realize and The New York Times to realize we're at war and they can't be just on their own deciding what to declassify, what to release.

If Congress wants to work on this privately, that's one thing. But for them to, on their own — for them to decide — for the editor of The New York Times to say that he decides it's in the national interest — no one elected them to anything.

You know, remember, this is the newspaper that brought us Jason Blair. Going back a few years ago, they're the ones who gave Fidel Castro his job in Cuba. They have no right to do this at all. The First Amendment is not absolute, certainly, when it comes to something like this, which to me is a clear violation of statutory law.

WALLACE: Senator Specter, there's a lot to react to there. First of all, do you think the Times was wrong to publish this story as well as the NSA warrantless wiretap story, and does it rise to the level that they should be prosecuted?

SPECTER: Well, we have seen the newspapers in this country act as effective watchdogs. You have Jefferson who laid out the parameter, saying if he had to choose a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, he would choose newspapers without government.

You have the Pentagon Papers case where the administration took The New York Times and The Washington Post to court. And the Supreme Court of the United States said there could be no prior restraint.

I don't think that the newspapers can have a totally free hand. But I think in the first instance, it is their judgment. The editor of The New York Times was quoted as saying that they had considered the government's request not to publish and had made their decision that it was in the public interest.

I'd be prepared to criticize The New York Times if I felt it warranted after knowing a lot more about the facts, but on the basis of the newspaper article, I think it's premature to call for a prosecution of The New York Times, just like I think it's premature to say that the administration is entirely correct.

I think you start with the proposition that there is not the privacy interest in bank records that there is in a telephone conversation. And let's find out more before we try to make a judgment here.

WALLACE: All right. Gentlemen, let's turn to another big issue that we originally thought that we were going to be talking to you mostly about, and that, of course, is immigration reform and the decision this week by Republican leaders in the House not to go immediately to a conference to try to work out a deal with the Senate, but rather to hold hearings all over the country this summer, in large part, it's been said, to point out the flaws in the Senate bill.

Congressman King, isn't this a calculated decision by House Republican leaders that for the political purposes of the November election, it's better to have no bill at all than a bill that includes comprehensive reform?

KING: Chris, we want a bill, but we want a good bill. And for instance, I have strong problems with the legalization — we call it amnesty provisions — in the Senate bill. This would reward bad behavior.

I support immigration. I support immigration reform. But I will not do it if it's going to involve giving legalization to those who violated the law. That is rewarding people who jumped the line. If you're rewarding people who broke the law — and when you analyze the Senate bill, that's what it comes down to.

But I think it's important that we do have this debate and have a — I know Senator Specter has scheduled hearings. I think it's a very good idea. Have Senate hearings, have House hearings, take this to the American people. Let them see what is on the table, and then hopefully we can have a bill before election.

But right now I, myself — and I believe I can speak for most House Republicans — have very serious philosophical and real objections to any type of legalization which is rewarding those who jumped the line, rewarding those who broke the law. It sends the very wrong message. We have to secure our borders first.

WALLACE: But, Congressman King, isn't there a political component to this as well? You are quoted in The Washington Post today as saying our polling shows that it's definitely to our advantage to oppose the Bush plan.

KING: Well, that was in answer to a question about whether or not I thought we were hurting ourselves by doing this. I'm saying if we are going to look at the polls, the polling is on our side.

But in spite of that, we still want to have the hearings to get the full range of opinions. And you know, we can always adjust. If the Senate can make their case, that's fine. I don't think they can.

But I was saying that in answer to the question do I believe that this is going to hurt us politically, I don't think it's going to hurt us politically. I think good politics is good government, and the American people have made it clear they want border security first, not legalization or amnesty.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask about policy and politics, Senator Specter, because the House leaders keep calling what you guys passed in the Senate the Kennedy bill. Is what you passed the Kennedy bill? Did you somehow get snookered by the senior senator from Massachusetts?

And do you have any doubts in your mind that basically the House has decided they'd rather have no bill than comprehensive reform?

SPECTER: Well, as to whether I got snookered by Senator Kennedy, I think the record's pretty plain. I was on your network when we had the confirmation hearings about Supreme Court Justice Alito, and we had a pretty good size clash, and I think it was pretty apparent who came out on top. I wasn't snookered by him at all.

The Senate bill came out of the Judiciary Committee, which I chair. And we need to deal with the issue of guest workers, which the House bill does not. And I scheduled hearings after the House did to point out the advantages of the Senate bill.

We have an economy which needs to have guest workers. And then you have 11 million undocumented immigrants who are a real threat, some on security, some in criminal conduct. And what the Senate bill does is to divide them.

We want to find the ones who are law-abiding citizens, who have jobs, who are paying their taxes, who have learned English, who ought to stay in this country. Whether it's guest workers or citizens, let's figure it out. And we're analyzing the people who ought not to be in this country.

But we ought not to have an 11 million fugitive clash in this country, an underclass. That's not in keeping with what American means. We are a country of immigrants. But let's segregate out those who don't belong here and send them back.

And those who are making a good contribution, do hold a job, are paying taxes, don't have criminal records, let's figure out a way to deal with them humanely.

WALLACE: Congressman King, we've got about 30 seconds left. You know, President Bush spoke to the nation. He has made comprehensive immigration reform perhaps his top legislative priority for the rest of this year. Do you as a loyal Republican have any problems with stiffing the president again?

KING: We're not stiffing the president. What we're doing here is trying to come up with a very good immigration bill, one which will do what the American people want. That's secure the borders and not give legalization or amnesty, and also, take away the incentive for illegal immigrants to come here by really cracking down on the employers who hire them.

They are the ones — they and the alien smuggling gangs are the ones who have created this problem. We have to secure the borders first.

WALLACE: Congressman King, Senator Specter, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you both for sharing your Sunday with us.

KING: Thank you, Chris. Thank you.

SPECTER: Nice to be with you. Thank you, Chris. Thank you.

KING: Thank you, Chris.