'Kill or Capture'
New book details president's hunt for terrorists in drone war
- Duration 9:20
- Date Jun 5, 2012
New book details president's hunt for terrorists in drone war
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-- it takes a lot to -- Washington but this did.
Recent revelations that President Obama has a secret kill list.
Of America's enemies stunning before because the former constitutional lawyer came into office.
Railing against torture promising to shut down gitmo to restore civil liberties.
And on and on he went.
Here's President Obama in his own words.
I think that.
I tried to.
Create a context for.
What we're -- and around issues like Guantanamo.
My decision to ban enhanced interrogation techniques.
How we can.
Preserve our values uphold our ideals.
An aggressive battle against.
Organizations like al-Qaeda the one -- a storm.
Well we've suspended habeas corpus to the extent that we are not being true to our values and ideals.
That sends a negative message the world and it gives us less leverage than what we want to -- you don't -- of countries that are abusing human rights.
Well Daniel excitement has reported extensively for Newsweek and the Daily Beast on the president's hunt for terrorists and he is the author of a new book.
Kill or capture.
The war on terror and the soul of the Obama presidency.
He joins us now for his first interview on fox Dana thank you so much for being here and the reason we put those clips in the introduction is because this was a central pillar of then candidate Obama's run for president that he was going to be different than President Bush that he was going to.
Avoid compromising what he described as our values.
In in the name of preserving our safety and yet your book seems to suggest.
He pursued it.
Many of the most controversial bush era policies when he became the president.
Yeah well that's true.
I mean look it wouldn't be the first time that a president campaigned in one way and then confronted reality.
I'm it is it is I did it happen well -- it's these things are complicated sometimes it's I think -- there there's.
A variety of factors involved there is the politics of -- them -- which constrained him.
There is you know that the evolution the transformation that you go through when you become the commander in chief and you assume.
These solemn responsibilities to protect the American people are starting to daily -- -- start and you start seeing things a little bit differently.
And and and of course that you know there's also.
That you deal with when your president in the white -- they call it -- -- they wanted to deal with the economy and they made a decision.
You can argue whether it was the right decision or not they made a decision to pursue Health Care Reform.
And there's only so much political capital that you have to expand there are also though legitimate questions us as to whether.
You know the president could have sort of -- -- -- gum at the same time on some of these issues and his critics would say that in in some areas early on.
He flinched and it made -- it was a kind of self fulfilling thing and it made it harder to do the things that he wanted to do.
-- it's pretty interesting to me because you talk in the book about how.
One of the things that President Obama ran on was he wanted to close it now we -- -- gitmo hasn't closed -- that they became a political firestorm for him.
You talk about how -- in interviewing your sources.
I -- perverse incentive was created that favored killing or releasing suspected terrorists.
Over capturing that and this is according to one of his top counterterrorism -- that you talk to who told you quote anyone who says it wasn't that way.
Is not being straight with you so we were now a situation where rather than capturing them and putting them downing gitmo.
The decision is made we need to kill -- or release some because we don't have an adequate facility and the president's mind of where to hold them.
Well in some ways it's the unintended consequences.
Of the of the policies that you pursue.
The president did not want to continue bringing people to get no.
He wanted to figure out some sort of a new detention regime and maybe bring into the United States.
And you know that.
Became much more complicated than he anticipated and so if you.
If you can't figure out that that detention -- Hot and you still need to protect the country against terrorists well it does become easier to kill -- and the caption I'm I have to say.
For the most part.
These terrorists can't be captured you know you you you can't go into Pakistan we can't put boots on the ground there and capture terrorists we can't.
It's too dangerous or the host countries are unwilling to let Americans.
Go into Somalia and -- effort and you -- has become a very very useful weapon.
You talk about how some you know some of these decisions what's he got office when it comes to terror and so on have -- -- politics has seeped in as as you know is probably the case for.
Any president we're gonna have from this point forward it's it's focused national security issue and to some extent a political issue especially in an election year.
But what was your overall impression in speaking with all these advisors were close to the president -- -- once worked for the president.
-- on how much he's motivated by politics when it comes to those decisions verses.
You know -- national security interests.
Look I think for the most part -- When you're a Republican or Democrat.
When you're in these positions.
Particularly the people who are in this sort of national security establishment down they're not making these decisions based on on political calls.
But there are always politics that are gonna effect -- your policies in some ways so.
You know for example a decision was made a fairly early on that we were not gonna bring a single new -- -- To -- Guantanamo.
Why that -- sent the message that he was not fully committed to closing Guantanamo and but that created all of these other problems and so for example.
You know when they did when they were able to catch one high profile role walk off -- -- guy actually who was with -- -- Bob Somalia.
They put -- on -- on a ship for seventy days be treated him as far as I can tell.
Fairly and according to the law but that shows you the kind of can portions you have to go through.
Because of the political environment that they.
Right and it it but it also wasn't a question whether he was with he lived up to that promise of the values and is that so different than putting and downing gitmo where they've got that it did that acre soccer you look.
-- we're gonna carry over with -- gonna break.
After the break when asked about that -- -- ask you about Eric Holder and his.
Depression according to you that's right after the break.
We joining me now Daniel -- the author of the new book kill or capture about President Obama and his terror policies.
-- as much about the attorney general we talked yesterday on the show about the confrontation you wrote about between.
holder and David Axelrod when they went -- to chests Axelrod appeared to admit it on the Sunday shows this week.
Because there was an argument about whether axle rod was meddling at the DOJ.
You talk about what it's like to be attorney general Eric Holder and talk about his depression.
What do you mean.
Yeah we'll look what I try to do in this book is is sort of show that the human dimension of national security decision making these these are people who were making very difficult calls.
On a regular basis they're balancing politics and principal security and liberty.
And that there is a lot of internal battling.
Eric Holder made a decision that was very controversial.
To try Khalid Sheikh Mohamed in federal court as opposed to military commission.
And it wasn't -- and it.
Controversial around the country it was controversial within the administration are a lot of people.
Who thought that it would be a real problem politically.
-- and so there are they or right and and aid they turn out to be right you know holder stuck to his guns but there was a real battle inside the administration I think holder felt.
Very much marginalized.
And under assault by people in the administration including president Obama's chief of staff and it depressed Rahm Emanuel well.
This is the environment he's working in another important thing happened which is -- his mother who was he was very close to died she had a stroke -- she died while they were.
On vacation in Martha's Vineyard.
And the combination of all of these factors the criticism the editorials against them I've been isolated -- the administration and the real blow with the death of his mother.
Put -- into it in in in real depression I mean he he was having a hard time frankly getting out of bed and and getting the energy and the will to go to work -- he thought seriously.
About quitting but ultimately.
His good friend of the administration that Valerie Jarrett was part of the president's closest friends and senior advisor.
-- told him that it would be harmful to the president politically if he left that he would become -- are rallying.
Cry for the for the liberal base of the party and that would damage the -- the.
And we know how that worked out and I know you read the book also that of president Obama's affection for mr.
holder and how they they really are those two -- tight which you know is interesting to me I gotta go.
Daniel it's an interesting -- recommended Daniel -- again the book is called capture.
Or kill kill or capture kill or capture check it out available right now thank you so much there thanks so much and.