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Public Statements

CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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ODD: Well, terrorism experts tell us that he's about 30 years old. He grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He studied chemistry at a Saudi university. They say that he became radicalized during the Iraq war. They spent time in a Saudi prison, but then, made his way over to Yemen where he joined al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Interestingly enough, there's one report from a Yemeni official a couple of years ago who with said that it was a Pakistani expert who trained several people in al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula on how to make bombs. That report from that official was never confirmed, but you know, there's a lot of speculation now as to just how Ibrahim al- Asiri learned his craft and who he's teaching it to.

BLITZER: Good points. Brian Todd at Reagan National Airport, thanks.

And Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan is joining us right now. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, have you been fully briefed, do you feel you've been fully briefed on this plot that was thwarted by the CIA?

ROGERS: I feel we got most of it as of today, at least, as far as the details of the event and what occurred in the process of us obtaining the actual device, the explosive device.

BLITZER: And have you seen photos of this actual explosive device?

ROGERS: I have.

BLITZER: Could you describe what it looks like, what it feels like? Give us a little sense of what it involved.

ROGERS: Well, I will tell you that this is the Christmas Day bomber next generation and that's what's so concerning to us is that they went to school on their mistakes. They looked at what happened in that particular event. It tells you they have the intellectual capital in one place to try to do the very painstaking, scientific, and engineering work to design that next generation of explosives.

So, I can't get into the details of it, but you can imagine that, you know, what concerns us, not that I would anticipate any change in the way we do security here in the United States as far as people going through the airport, but the fact they're spending that much time and effort trying to circumvent security systems with a device that appears to have been very lethal.

And I want to caution, it is right in the middle of its forensic analysis right now, and we'll hopefully know more in the days, if not weeks ahead.

BLITZER: And the device has no metal that would be detected by a metal detector, right?

ROGERS: There was no metal, apparent metal in the particular device, but other scanners would have, in fact, detected it, many believe. And again, it's a little bit premature, because we haven't done all the forensic work hasn't been done and hasn't been presented.

BLITZER: The explosive material, would it be powder?

ROGERS: I really shouldn't get into the details that specifically other than if you know what the Christmas Day bomber which was well explained, it was kind of the next generation of it. So, it was that, plus some improvements to try to circumvent security, and that's, again, what concerns many of us.

BLITZER: In other words, it could have been just used in underpants or something like that?

ROGERS: Something of that nature.

BLITZER: Something of that nature that would be worn as opposed to be put inside a body cavity or whatever?

ROGERS: I would agree with that assessment, yes.

BLITZER: OK. Now, what about the individual or individuals who were planning on doing this? What happened to them?

ROGERS: Well, rest assured that they present no threat to the United States or our allies or anyone at this particular point. And again, this is the importance -- I spent a lot of time in the intelligence community developing relationships, liaison relationships with foreign security services of all sorts.

Some may be hostile in some cases, others may be good allies to the United States and everything in between, and those relationships pay off over time and instances just like this. So, this was a liaison service who cooperated with the United States, and it was able to help in this particular case get on to this particular individual and obtained the device itself which was -- is incredibly important as we move forward.

So, we know -- again, having the device is so important for us because of the forensics that are involved in it in allowing us to understand how they operate, how they think, and where they're going next.

BLITZER: And when you say this individual is no longer a threat to the United States, that says to me this individual is dead or he's been detained or been arrested. Can you tell us what the answer is?

ROGERS: I can't confirm or deny this particular individual's status as of today.

BLITZER: And the friendly intelligence service that cooperated? Would that be Yemen, or Saudi Arabia or both?

ROGERS: Wild-eyed speculation, and I cannot confirm or deny any of the security services that may have participated in this particular event.

BLITZER: But their master bomb maker, al-Asiri, is he the guy who is largely responsible for this? Is he still at large?

ROGERS: It has all the signatures of his work and again, the concerning here is that over time. Here's the good news, we didn't find Yemen last week. This is something we have known to be a problem, have spent resources and capital, if you will, an electoral capital and agency and other spy agency capital to try to figure out exactly what the networks look like there.

And so, our concern is, it has those hallmarks, but could it be someone else? Could there be other folks who have gone to school on this particular way to develop these devices? That's all in the process of being figured now which is why this was so concerning, and it was leaked in the way that it was. A little bit of chest thumping, a little bit too early.

As an old FBI agent, Wolf, I can tell you, you want to follow an operation or a case or an investigation all the way to its conclusion before talking about it. Any time that happens a little short of that, that's a huge problem.

So, as a chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I've been asking a lot of serious questions about how this leak, in fact, happened and to make sure that there wasn't, as I said, a little chest thumping a little bit early at the expense of our national security.

BLITZER: You mean for political purposes. Is that what you're implying?

ROGERS: Well, you know, it is the funny season in this town, and it certainly didn't pass the smell test when we looked at all of the details of this particular case and how it happened and when there were press conferences scheduled. All of that stuff leads to a lot of questions. And again, this is so important that we keep politics out of our national security apparatuses.

It is incredibly important for the security of this country that it not be Republican or Democrat or for campaign purposes of any sort. And we need to make sure that, in fact, happened. And what happened with the earlier release, it didn't allow for the most robust conclusion of an operation or investigation into this particular event, and maybe put at risk some other operations and some of our allies.

BLITZER: The White House says President Obama was briefed in April. When were you briefed about it?

ROGERS: Well, that was another concerning thing. According to statute, this should have been what's called a big 8 briefing when the operation is first onto, and we weren't really brought in until yesterday, which is also another oddity. I have not seen that since I've been chairman. I've been fully open and transparent until this particular event.

It just raises a lot of questions given the press schedule of this event and how it was released early, and it raises a lot of question, unfortunately.

BLITZER: Yes. And I know there's going to be a lot of investigations and as someone who's covered the intelligence committees over the years. I found it odd that you, Dianne Feinstein, the chairman of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, the ranking members, as well, were not briefed until yesterday. That was pretty surprising to me, as well.

Congressman Rogers, thanks very much for coming in.

ROGERS: Thanks, Wolf. Appreciate it. We look forward to talking to you again.

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