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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript

Interview

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COSTELLO: Joining me now is the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Representative Mike Rogers, rather.

Thanks for joining us, Congressman.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: So we know that the device is being looked at in Quantico, Virginia. Will we one day know what they find? Will that become public?

ROGERS: Well, probably not all of the details and for a very important reason. You don't want the bad guys in other places to know: (a), the composition of this. It was more advanced than the Christmas Day bomber's or underwear bomber's gear and still not something that we believe could have circumvented security.

But we don't want the information widespread that they can go back to the work bench and come up with way to try to circumvent security which is important, Carol, to know that they are trying to do that every single day and that's an important thing to remember in this.

COSTELLO: Yes. And the reason I ask you this question -- and I understand the concerns -- is people need to know what to look for because they feel, I don't know, they feel kind of helpless right now. What do you look for?

ROGERS: Well, in a case like this, that's why you have a security system at the airport to detect certain anomalies. You know, you go through the x-ray machine. That's uncomfortable. You don't like it. But it's to detect nonmetallic things that are trying -- somebody is trying to sneak into the airport and in this particular case many believe that that would have caught this particular device.

But I have to tell you, it's very sophisticated. They've got some very bright people spending lots of time -- a matter of fact, all day long trying to develop something they can sneak through these -- our airport security systems and, again, that's why we have to be so vigilant and work with our liaison partners and work to try to find where these folks are and where they recruit and where they build these things and make sure they don't have the opportunity to operate.

COSTELLO: Yes. I want to ask you about the bomb maker in a second. I want to go back to how you can protect air travelers, because many Americans think privacy is being invaded already by the TSA.

So if -- I don't know -- more stringent measures are put into place, will there be more backlash from the American public?

ROGERS: Well, I'm not -- when you say more stringent, I'm not sure we're there yet. It's clearly the forensics on this particularly device are still underway by the FBI.

But preliminarily, many believe you won't have to have anything different than we have right now. The system in place would have detected this. That's the good news. The bad news is a lot of people don't like the systems that are in place at the TSA.

So, you know, this is the one challenge that we have. These threats are real and they are serious. This is a device that was more sophisticated and had fail safes built into it and it was something that concerns us because it tells you that they bring capable people together to try to build something.

And that's why we have to be so aggressive about trying to find them and bring them to justice -- where they build, where they finance, where they recruit, where they train to do these things.

COSTELLO: Congressman, I guess I was just a little confused because some -- Senator Feinstein for example is saying that this was an undetectable bomb but you are saying it is a detectable bomb.

ROGERS: Well, again, all the forensics aren't done. Many believe that the current x-ray system would have detected it. That -- we don't know all of the facts yet. That's a preliminary conclusion.

And so, there are some things in it that are concerning -- some new technologies in this particular bomb that are concerning. However, we think under the current system it would have been detected through an extra type machine.

COSTELLO: OK. Let's talk about the bomb maker, this Ibrahim al- Asiri. Do we have a beat on where he is?

ROGERS: We have an indication of the general area of where he is. You know, that effort is ongoing and has been ongoing. We understand the severity of what this would mean, and so lots of attention paid right now to ramping up where he is and exactly how we get at him.

COSTELLO: I think the other thing people are curious about this bomb is now in U.S. hands and people are wondering did we confiscate it from some person who is still out there? Do we know who that person is? Can you answer any of those questions for us?

ROGERS: Well, I can say I feel very, very comfortable about the process of which we obtained it. The one thing that isn't talked about, Carol, here that is a problem is the leak of which about the device being in FBI custody. Very, very concerning. Probably a little bit premature, shouldn't have happened.

As chairman of the intel committee, we'll be asking some questions about that. These are things that you need to run all of the way to ground. As an old FBI agent, I can tell you, you need to take your leads all the way to the end to make sure you get the whole picture before you: (a), come to a conclusion, and, (b), talk about your conclusion.

A little bit concerning this got out as early as it did. There was some work to be done and, boy, we sure have to get a handle of that on this town.

COSTELLO: Why does it concern you? Doesn't the American public have a right to know that these kind of bombs are being made and that -- I mean, we should protect ourselves?

ROGERS: Absolutely. At the end of that operation or investigative lead, absolutely, they have the right to know. During the process of that, it's important if you are going to be successful, that certain pieces of information be kept classified in order for you to meet the end, find the end, find the bomb maker, find that fill in the blank, make sure you can determine how we best handle getting not only just the bomb but the people who are building this.

You can pretty much guess this is probably not the only one that they built. All of those things are very, very important and for it to come out when it did, I do argue that it was -- it was just not very helpful.

We're going to have to ramp it up and in this town and in a political season, people need to be a little more cautious. Actually, they need to be a lot more cautious about how they promote this information at a time when it may not have been most beneficial to the intelligence community to do it.

COSTELLO: So, Congressman, are you saying it was deliberately leaked for political reasons?

ROGERS: I can't say that. I just know that in political season funny things happen. We're going to ask -- as committee chairman, I'm going to ask lots of questions about this leak and we need to get this kind of thing tightened down as quickly as we possibly can.

So, listen, so if something bad happens because it was leaked too early, that's a catastrophe. And it is -- it's also a crime.

And so we need to be really careful about this kind of thing. We need to send a clear message to all of our intelligence community, our defense community, and to the administration, we will not tolerate leaks for -- under any circumstances that jeopardize ongoing operations.

COSTELLO: Will you suggest a congressional investigation?

ROGERS: We're doing a preliminary ask of some serious questions as I speak.

COSTELLO: And the answers to those questions will determine whether a formal investigation should take place?

ROGERS: That's correct.

COSTELLO: Congressman Rogers, thank you for joining us this morning.

ROGERS: Thanks, Carol.

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