A Bad Idea

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 20, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: We are live in Phoenix, Arizona, where Mexico has sent its war, and it is terrifying for people here. Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman brought his Senate committee to Phoenix to look firsthand at the growing crisis here. Moments ago, Senator Lieberman went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: So why are you here?

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Well, we're not here for the weather, but we're here obviously because of our growing concern about the impact of the Mexican drug cartels on crime here in America. I mean, at first the larger picture. The Justice Department has told our committee that the Mexican drug cartels today are the number one organized crime threat in America. They operate in more than 230 metropolitan areas from Anchorage, Alaska, unfortunately, to Hartford Connecticut, and a lot of places in between. They are causing a lot of death and devastation along the way.

But here, we're particularly asking, what has been the impact of the war that President Felipe Calderon of Mexico has declared on these drug cartels on crime here in the border areas? And there are, unfortunately, very significant signs of it.

Probably most stunning is the 700 kidnappings that have occurred in the Phoenix area, mostly related to the drug cartels in the last couple of years. But we also see increases in car thefts and other kinds of violence.

There has not been the kind of violence from the drug cartels on the border area within America, including against government officials, like that they are carrying out in Mexico, where they routinely kill police, prosecutors, military, et cetera.

But these drug cartels are big. They are well-financed, and they consider themselves to be at war. That's why I think we have to bring more of our troops, more ore out personnel to the border here.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would you like President Obama to do?

LIEBERMAN: First thing I think we need to do is to build on what President Obama already did. He redeployed about 400 employees of the Department of Homeland Security Department of Justice, but he has taken them from other areas around the country.

I think we ought to send them back, our backfill with 400 new employees.

Watch Greta's interview with Sen. Joe Lieberman

But we need a lot more than that. We need more personnel at the borders. We need to be doing more to stop the flow of illegal weapons. It is very hard to buy guns in Mexico, not so hard to buy them here. That's why they are buying them here and bringing them into Mexico, and those guns are being used to carry out the violence. There is a lot more we can do, probably, to increase penalties on some things like being a straw man, being hired by the Mexican drug cartel - we'll give you $100, $200. Go in and legally buy an assault weapon, for instance, or a pistol. Give it to me, and then I'll take it and smuggle it across the border. We need more people on the border.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll give you another one. I'll just throw it at you.

LIEBERMAN: Go ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: Again, the whole business about the torture memos being released by the Obama administration -- good idea or bad idea?

LIEBERMAN: I thought release of the memos was a bad idea.

The President of the United States as the commander in chief has the right to decide what kinds of tactics he wants to use with detainees who we believe are associated with terrorism and what kinds he does not want to use. Congress legislated on that. I was a cosponsor with Senator McCain of the anti-torture provisions we put into law.

But once you start to take internal memos that have been designated as top secret --

VAN SUSTEREN: Even if it's -- first of all, is waterboarding torture?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I take a minority position on this. Most people think it's definitely torture. The truth is, it has mostly a psychological impact on people. It's a terrible thing to do.

I have said in the past, and I'll say it again to you, that I want the president of the United States in a given circumstance where we believe somebody we've got in our control may have information that could help us stop an attack, an imminent attack on the United States like 9/11 or, god forbid, worse, we ought to be able to use something like waterboarding.

But, generally speaking, it ought to not be on the table.

Incidentally, I believe General Hayden when he says that not just waterboarding, which he stopped, as I understand it, but a number of the other items on that list that have been published, really did work, did help to give us a lot of information we have about Al Qaeda.

Why do I think it was a mistake to give it out? I wasn't necessary. It just helps our enemies. It doesn't really help us.

Again, the president can decide what tactics he wants the CIA or the military to use on people we capture, suspects of terrorism. But to let our enemies know what we are going to do or not do, that's not a good idea.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.


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