Sunday, March 02, 2008
Blunt: We're not in Iraq as occupiers, but to solve a problem
Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt addressed the continuing controversy over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the situation in Iraq during an appearance on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer on CNN today. Following is the transcript of that discussion:
BLITZER: I want to get your reaction to what we just heard from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Silvestre Reyes.
He said, at the end of that interview, and you heard him say that he thinks by, within a week, there will be a resolution of this dispute between the White House and the House of Representatives over surveillance, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and work out an arrangement, along the lines of perhaps what the Senate has already done. Are you that optimistic that, within a week, this whole matter of intelligence eavesdropping can be worked out?
BLUNT: You know, I'm not quite that optimistic yet, but I am committed to the idea that we have to work this out. The bipartisan bill, where 69 people in the Senate sent a bill over to the House -- it's clear that there's a bipartisan majority in the House to pass that bill.
At least 21 Democrats have written the speaker and said, bring this bill to the floor. I think there are another 30 -- there are another 10, at least, on that -- involved with that group now.
And, really, the country is not as safe as it was a few weeks ago, because the old law, written in 1978, just simply doesn't work with today's technology. And we'll quickly be back into the same backlog that we were in before we passed the Protect America Act, the first of August. And we've had six months of unfettered intelligence to foreigners in foreign countries.
Remember, no person in the United States can be listened to, when they make a call or send an e-mail, without a warrant. If we knew a known terrorist was in the United States and we knew they were going to be contacting Osama bin Laden, to listen to that call, to look at that e-mail, you'd have to get a warrant.
This is all about foreigners in foreign countries.
BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Congressman. There is a provision that you can go ahead and listen, and then, later, you can come back and get that warrant if there's an emergency and you've got to listen to that conversation. There is the authority to go forward, and only later come back and get the warrant.
BLUNT: You know, the authority is there, but nobody thinks the authority really works in the time frame you need it to work. And even if it did, you would quickly get covered up, just like we were covered up under the old law, by the end of July, where they were 300- plus cases behind. All our analysts were spending their time trying to make the case that we needed warrants on foreigners in foreign countries rather than listening to what was going on.
And the system just is not designed to work. And everybody knows that. Our friends on the other side, at Chairman Reyes just said, are willing to give ongoing liability protection.
Nobody is alleging that anybody did anything knowingly inappropriate in the past. It's easy to solve this problem if the Democrats decide they want to solve it. The Senate proved it was easy and enough Democrats in the House believe it's easy that it's just up to the leaders to do this.
BLITZER: Well, you heard the chairman of the Intelligence Committee say he thinks it can be done within a week. We'll see what happens in this week. I want to show you a picture, Congressman. The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is now getting the red carpet treatment in Baghdad. He's an official visitor right now. This is the first time we've seen this kind of situation, going back many years during the Iran-Iraq war.
This is pretty unusual, to see President Talabani hugging and kissing the president of Iran.
And here's the question a lot of Americans are going to be asking: Is this why the United States went to war in Iraq? Nearly 4,000 U.S. troops are dead, nearly a trillion spent, or about to be spent, so that there can be this kind of relationship emerging between the leader of Iran and the leaders of Iraq?
BLUNT: Well, things that are happening, Wolf, in Iraq that are leaning towards democracy. That's not the one I like the best, but it is part of the process of a free government doing what they want to do.
I like it better when they have moved forward, now, with some revenue-sharing on the oil.
BLUNT: They're doing things to reverse the process where nobody who had served as a civil servant in the past could be a civil servant under this government. Certainly the local governments are doing better.
BLITZER: But let me interrupt for a moment.
BLUNT: I don't like that, but you can't tell a country that they can't visit with their neighbors if they're going to truly develop their own democracy.
BLITZER: But what does that say about the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the president, Jalal Talabani, when they're so warmly receiving President Ahmadinejad of Iran?
BLUNT: Well, one thing is says is they're certainly not dominated politically by the United States, that we're not in there as occupiers. We're in there to try to solve a problem.
How we get out of Iraq is now much more important than how we got in, and I think we've seen a lot of stability in recent days when we let the generals in the field be the generals rather than the generals in Congress try to decide what was going to happen in Iraq.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, he has issued a statement -- in fact, he was on "Late Edition" last Sunday, and he said this. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, R-NEB.: I don't think things are getting better. I think things are getting worse. We're not going to be able to sustain the policies that we have in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even though our military is doing a spectacular job everywhere, we've so overloaded them, we've so overburdened them, they can't do it all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Why do you think he's wrong?
BLUNT: Well, almost everybody thinks he's wrong if that's his analysis right now. Things clearly have gotten better in Iraq, both militarily and a slower pace I'd like to see politically, but politically, things have gotten better, too. And that's what we've got to have happen. We've got to have the Iraqis take responsibility for their own future in Afghanistan. Our efforts there, the efforts of our allies need to be whatever is adequate to do the job. And frankly, our NATO allies have been disappointed in Afghanistan in recent days.
That's why we've had to send in a few more troops in, and we're continuing to work with our allies to get them to do their job in a war that everybody appears to be supportive of, but nobody but us and a couple of other countries seem to want to really be part of.