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Utah Senator Mike Lee on the Death of Bin Laden

Monday, May 2, 2011

HH: Joined on the phone by United States Senator Mike Lee, a member of the United States Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations. Senator Lee, what’s your reaction to the killing of bin Laden?

ML: Well, it’s a great accomplishment, obviously. And I congratulate our troops, those who were involved in this operation ought to be congratulated, as are all those who have served so faithfully over the last decade as we’ve been trying to track him down. This is great news, and it’s a great accomplishment. It is, of course, just another step in the direction of combating terror. But you know, importantly, it sends a signal to the entire world, which is unmistakably, if you attack the United States of America, the United States of America will come after you, and it will pursue you relentlessly until you’re brought to justice.

HH: Earlier in this program, about twenty minutes ago, Senator, your colleague on Foreign Relations, Marco Rubio, pointed out disturbing facts without drawing conclusion, that the terrorist hid in plain sight in Pakistan next to a military base. What kind of concerns do you have raised by the circumstances we discovered of his hideyhole?

ML: Well, obviously, it’s a little bit distressing when we suspect that he’s in one area, and it turns out he’s in another area, and an area which one could argue he should have been more easily discovered. But on the other hand, maybe that was just smart thinking on his part in trying to avoid detection, was hiding in a place where he thought we would never suspect him. And I guess that’s what happened. We’ll look into that, and we’ll try to figure out whether something was overlooked that shouldn’t have been. But in the meantime, I’m just very proud of those who were involved in finding him, and bringing him to justice once and for all.

GB: Senator, there’s a debate going on right now in the White House among top administration officials whether or not to release images of Osama bin Laden’s corpse. Do the American people deserve that confirmation?

ML: I think you can make a credible argument that they do. I think many Americans would be reluctant to want to look at such photographs. But if they want to see it, given the amount of money that’s been spent on this, given the number of lives that have been lost in the task of pursuing this man, I suppose the American people have a right to see that as confirmation in the interest of accountability in government, if nothing else.

HH: Senator Lee, incredibly, the Washington Post has a story up this hour saying does this make President Obama invulnerable in 2012. On many of the left wing websites, there are politicizations of the story already. I’m curious as to your reaction of people who are trying to get a political spin on what is a victory for civilization.

ML: Well, if they’re making that kind of claim, they should be ashamed of themselves, but first of all, that is shameless to take an event like 9/11, where so many Americans lost their lives, so many other Americans lost family members. And to try to use that as a political football…and it’s also just insulting to the American people to think that that’s going to change a vote a year and a half from now simply because this one man was finally located and killed. There are many, many issues that are facing voters right now, that will continue to face voters between now and November of 2012. This one issue is not going to close the deal for President Obama, especially when we’ve got a mounting debt and a problem with the way we spend money in this town, which the President has yet to address in any serious fashion.

HH: Senator Lee, I also want to ask you, you’re a fairly serious Constitutional scholar, the authorization for the use of military force passed by the United States Congress in 2001 allowed hot pursuit of terrorists wherever they went. But the President did dispatch American troops, SEALs, into an allied country’s capitol, or near capitol, for the purpose of killing an individual there apparently without their authorization or prior knowledge. Do you think that that can be repeated often by a president? Is this a precedent that is unique? Or is it one that can serve as additional authorization for additional strikes in the future?

ML: I don’t think this will ever be a commonplace practice by the United States of America, with or without this precedent having been set. It’s not something that I think we’ll be doing a lot of. So I don’t see it as a slippery slope, necessarily, that’s going to lead inexorably to this practice becoming commonplace.

HH: And a last question, the Patriot Act is up for reauthorization. Do you expect it will fly through the Senate?

ML: Well, I suspect that it will be reauthorized. It is hard to tell at this point, but I suspect that it will be. I’ve got some concerns with it, and continue to express those concerns. Those concerns have yet to be resolved, but I think most of my colleagues in the Senate have in the past been comfortable with the Patriot Act. And at this point, I’ll be a little surprised if it’s not reauthorized.

HH: Senator Mike Lee, it’s always a pleasure to speak with you, Senator.

End of interview.

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