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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 12/ 8/2010

Rep. Peter King interview (Part 1)

By Jennifer Rubin

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) will be appointed the next chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee today. King, who also served on the House Intelligence Committee, is known for his candor. When I met with him in his Capitol Hill office, he was hobbled by a broken foot, but his mood was buoyant on the eve of attaining a chairmanship he had long sought. And he had plenty to say. In this post he shares his thoughts on U.S. foreign policy and on this week's tax deal. In Part 2 I'll come back with his take on domestic politics -- the 2010 midterms, the 2012 race, his own political future and more.

Since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was taken into British custody just a few hours before we spoke, I began by asking if the U.S. should seek Assange's extradition. King answered: "Well, first we have to indict him." King agrees with Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that we should bring charges under the Espionage Act. If we don't, he argues, "other countries won't take us seriously. And so, yes, we should make every effort" to bring him to the U.S. He discounted the notion that the British have not been helpful in previous extradition matters, saying, "Listen, they are a strong ally in the War on Terror." The British will be inclined to help us, he believes, because they "understand how deadly" the leaks are.

King then expressed concern about Obama administration officials' response to what he calls the "incalculable damage" caused by the massive document leak. "Considering how fast they moved [to file a laswsuit] on Arizona's immigration law and how determined they were to move against our CIA agents... there is definitely something missing here," he asserted. He disclosed that he was involved, as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, in a briefing on WikiLeaks some time ago, and he was "shocked by the lack of urgency. We've known about this for six months, and yet we were caught flat-footed." He said that he has already spoken to his staff about hearings on the leak and on the administration's response.

As to why the administration has not more vigorously moved toward prosecution, King said he didn't want to get into "psychobabble." But he then mused that there are people in the administration who consider Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who disclosed the Pentagon papers, "a hero." King continued: "From a liberal perspective, this is a First Amendment issue. If prosecution goes forward, he asserted, "The logical result would be going after the New York Times." (Later in the day Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) made a similar suggestion.)

I asked King about the deal to extend the Bush tax cuts. "It is a very good deal," he said, perhaps not wanting to be seen gloating. The deal, he said, includes "much of what the Republicans are looking for. I didn't know what the president was going to do. But I am glad the president compromised. We'll leave it at that."

King also told me that congressional Republicans are serious about deficit control. But he contends that "defense spending shouldn't be subject to across-the-board cuts. We shouldn't spend a penny more or a penny less than we need on defense. But we ask people to put their lives on the line. Fighting a war has to be our main focus." He therefore rejects that cutting defense is equivalent to cutting domestic programs, although he says we should go after all the fraud and waste we can find in the Pentagon.

As for the war on terrorism, King said there has been a sea change in the administration's approach: "They came in here not using -- or hardly using -- the term 'terrorism'" and believing that "somehow this was all contrived by Bush and Cheney." He said that this mindset "influenced their thinking for too long." But there was a change in attitude after the Christmas Day bombing and Times Square bombing attempts. He said that he now enjoys a good relationship with both Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and terrorism advisor John Brennan (whose resignation he once called for). He said the contrast is dramatic between the present attitude and what "seemed like a mad dash to hide from the reality of Islamic terrorism" when the president first entered office.

The day before I spoke to King, a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to the president urging that he hold firm on sanctions on the Iran. Is King worried that the administration is going wobbly? "More and more, in reading the body language, I think they are considering... that Iran is going to get the bomb," he said. He cautioned that the administration may be saying something different in private discussions, but he thinks it is quite possible, in an effort to keep the administration on course, that the House will generate a letter similar to the Senate's version.

As the conversation turned to Israel, King became animated. He reiterated that "Israel is vital" to the U.S. as an ally. But he was critical of Obama's handling of the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. (Later in the day, the administration let on that the talks were kaput.) King said: "The president created unnecessary problems for himself -- the way he went after [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu.... I don't know any ally who was treated as badly as Netanyahu. He was treated like Gaddafi or something."

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 8, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
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Next: Do we have an Iran policy?


Here we go. Right back to the chest-thumping of the Bush/Cheney fear-mongering days. Why do these guys feel the need to attack everything they disagree with? Slash and burn is their weapon, "the-sky-is-falling" hype, and the media is the enemy. Why do they lack faith in the American people, and feel the need to impose their will on all American institutions? Reality, appearently, is not your friend.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 8, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

@jckdoors | December 8, 2010 11:03 AM: "Why do these guys feel the need to attack everything they disagree with?"

When people disagree they are inclined to make their disagreement known. This is a natural human activity known as communication.

Explaining one's position on various government policy issues in an interview is not only a common activity for all elected officials, it is also beneficial to the electorate.

Stating one's position on policy is not in itself an attack on opposing viewpoints. It is a statement of one's position.

Posted by: HenriLeGrand | December 8, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

You've never read this anywhere else, so here's a totally new idea: Next, there will be a new third party composed of former Democrats who believe in the U.S. Wonder what they'll call themselves?

Posted by: BrooklynPatriot | December 8, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The US Justice Department has been tasked with pursuing Assange. He is no hero for this administration and the implication from King has all the veracity of McCarthy's list of communist infiltrators.

From former Sec. of State Rice: "She thought the White House appropriately referred the matter to the Justice Department for a review of possible charges, adding: 'I hope they hurry up.'"

Posted by: veritasinmedium | December 8, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Always good to hear from Peter King.

BrooklynPatriot: "You've never read this anywhere else, so here's a totally new idea: Next, there will be a new third party composed of former Democrats who believe in the U.S. Wonder what they'll call themselves?"

sounds like you heard Mayor Bloomberg's speech today at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but I suggest 'FedPop' instead of the Bloomberg Party :)

"...Both parties follow the mood of the moment - instead of leading from the front. They incite anger instead of addressing it - for their own partisan interests. They tell the world about every real or imagined problem in America - and not what is right with America. Especially in these tough times, we need our leaders to inspire the whole country - not criticize half of it. ..."

full speech at:

Posted by: K2K2 | December 8, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

"If we don't (charge Assange with Espionage Act), other countries won't take us seriously."

What King and others like him don't realise is that the credibility of the US is already down and if the US indicts Assange for the so-called "espionage," the democratic status of the US will be seriously in question in the democratic world.

The world looks upon Julian as an advocate of democratic freedoms and the US is increasing losing its credibility precisely because it is persecuting Julian.

As for the so-called "espionage charges," going by the same US standards, why shouldn't Hillary Clinton and her associates be extradited and severely punished by the global community for spying on the whole world?

A least we have confirmed evidence of Hillary's involvement in global espionage.

One of the most serious charge laid against Julian is that he published the list of facilities critical to the US.

But I see no one asking the questions that should be asked -

Every cable begins by mentioning the name of official responsible for classifying the document. So, if this list was so vital, why didn't the classifying official mark it as Top Secret and advise the govt to keep it away from common access?

Further, why did Hillary Clinton fail to see that this list should be marked as Top Secret and kept away from easy access?

Why is Julian being accused for the classifying guilt of the classifying officer and of Hillary Clinton?

Why is the US not framing a charge against the classifying officer and Hillary for this?

How is it Julian's fault if the classifying officer and Hillary fail to mark a document as Top Secret and keep it away from common access?

Why is Julian's head on the anvil for an obvious fault and incompetence of the State Department?

Why are Hillary and the classifying officer not being held to account for assisting in espionage, rather than Julian?

Posted by: Globalseek | December 13, 2010 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Everyone should read this, especially those who argue for secrecy for national benefits –

Following quotes are taken from Obama’s memorandum to executives of government. It’s a White House release –

“The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.”

“All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government.”

“The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.”

It seems Obama and his administration, especially Hillary Cllinton, have forgotten their own directives and promises they made.

If they had remembered it, by now Hillary Clinton would have resigned and Obama and company would not be persecuting Julian Assange.

I am beginning to wonder if the US is a democracy at all that it claims to be, or whether it’s a dictatorship in disguise.

Read the full paper here –

Posted by: Globalseek | December 13, 2010 12:34 AM | Report abuse

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