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Fox News "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript

Interview

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WALLACE: There are still more questions than answers about the attack in Libya Tuesday that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

For more on where the investigation stands, we are joined which the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers, who is in his home state of Michigan.

Well, Congressman, you just heard Ambassador Rice say that her latest indications are that the attack on the consulate in Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration about that video control that spun out of control. Do you agree with the ambassador?

REP. MIKE ROGERS, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think it's just too early to make that conclusion. There are -- there's analysts in Department of Defense and CIA. There's operatives in both places.

As an FBI agent, I get to look at all of that. I come to a different conclusion. They are only moderately confident it was a spontaneous event because there's huge gaps in what we know.

The way that the attack took place, I have serious questions. It seemed to be a military style coordinated. They had indirect fire, coordinated with direct fire, rocket attacks. They were able to launch two different separate attacks on locations there near the consulate and they repelled a fairly significant Libyan force that came to rescue the embassy.

And then it was on 9/11 and there is other information, classified information, that we have that just makes you stop for a minute and pause.

And as the first thing you learn as a young FBI agent in this, there are coincidences but they're not likely, and there are a lot of coincidences about this event.

Do I believe that people did show than had weapons and joined the effort? Probably I do, but I think to me, when you look at all of the information across both departments, it sure -- I'm just suspect that they could come to that conclusion so assuredly that it was a spontaneous effort given the coordination of it.

WALLACE: There has been talk about an extremist group in Benghazi, Ansar al-Sharia. There has been talk that they were in touch with another group, Al Qaeda in North Africa.

What can you tell us about that?

ROGERS: You know, for months, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, and that's across northern Africa, which joined in about 2007 I think it was or 2008, they joined Al Qaeda. So they had their own groups across northern Africa.

What they have been looking -- they have been looking because Al Qaeda core, Zawahiri and others, have told them that you want -- you need to start attacking Western targets. So they have been looking for opportunities.

We know, there was an IED at this facility just months ago. So, we know that there is some interest by al Qaeda, strong interest I should say to attack Western targets. We know that Al Qaeda cells in Tunisia have been developing; in Libya have been developing.

We can't say for certain it was an Al Qaeda event. It just has all of the hall marks, Chris, of an Al Qaeda-style event.

WALLACE: Given and you just mentioned the fact there had been an IED attack at this consulate. There have been, as I mentioned to Ambassador Rice, been five terror attacks on the ground against Western interests in Benghazi.
I understand that hindsight is 20/20. But were we as prepared as we should have been given the fact that, yes, there was a history of violence in the region and, yes, it was the 11th anniversary of 9/11 and, yes, the ambassador was at this not very fortified installation in Benghazi.

Should there have been more security there?

ROGERS: Yes, that one is going to be hard to assess. I think we need to walk to that conclusion and not run. One of the things we do ask diplomats in places like Libya to do, and remember, they're volunteers, they're in dangerous neighborhoods. It's a bit of an expeditionary exercise.

We didn't have an embassy there but it was important to have U.S. influence there for hopefully a better outcome that leads to more peaceful events in the future. So, he gave his life in that effort and it was expeditionary. So, we have to look at was the security accurate for what we knew in accordance with what the mission was for the ambassador in Benghazi at that time. I don't think any one today can say yes or no.

I think it's going to take -- and I know the FBI is on the ground. They'll have a great forensic when they are done a great forensic picture for us and then we can make that determination and we're also -- through the committee and through the intelligence services -- scrubbing everything we knew up to that point.

Was there a smoking gun that was missed? I don't think we know that answer either. I have not seen anything that indicates that. But we just don't know.
So, I think all of those pieces have to be put together before we come to the conclusion they didn't have the right security posture there in Benghazi.

WALLACE: Let's talk about the broader picture and wave of anti- American violence across Islamic world this week. You just heard Ambassador Rice say that this has nothing to do with U.S. policy in the Middle East. It is all about that video that insults the Prophet Muhammad.

Congressman, do you believe that?

ROGERS: I don't. I think this is a convenient effort by all of the groups who have other ulterior motives. If you remember even -- I know the ambassador mentioned the Prophet Muhammad cartoons. Well, there were months that went by before violence was incited. They did that through their own information operations. They being Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

So, we know that Al Qaeda is clearly trying to use this to incite violence. So, this is a mechanism to do what they have been trying to do all along. And what we are finding, too, in some of the demonstrators in Egypt is finding that a lot of the folks showing up hadn't even seen the video and this is some of that youth group that really started the change in Egypt and now the day the election happened felt immediately disenfranchised.

You have economic problems, religious problems, cultural differences, tribal differences in Libya -- all of those things are simmering and we have had at least what appears to the folks in the Middle East -- and they can say what they want, I travel there frequently -- the Middle East believes, the countries in the Middle East, believe that there is a disengagement policy by the United States and that lack of leadership there or at least clarity on what our position is, is causing problems.

If we all decide to rally around the video as the problem we going to make a serious mistake and we are going to make I think diplomatic mistakes as we move forward if we think that is the only reason people are showing up at our embassy and trying to conduct acts of violence.

WALLACE: Well, you're not only the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. You are also a congressman. Let me ask you a political question, not an intelligence question.

Do you think the administration is putting it all on the video because that allows them to duck questions about their policies?

ROGERS: Well, I think we have not had a robust debate in the campaign, in the presidential campaign, about foreign policy. It has been on the back-burner. I mean, the president doesn't talk a lot about it. He hasn't given any speeches really of significance since the 2009 Cairo speech. I do think that, you know, policies overseas have consequences. As a matter of fact, I had a meeting with a senior Middle East intelligence official awhile ago and asked him if I could make you king for a day, what would you ask of the United States. And he stopped for a minute, Chris and he said, I'd like to know -- I would tell you to tell us, what is your Middle East policy? There is no U.S. leadership.

That's a pretty powerful thing to hear when you have all this chaos breaking out now and this was several months ago. But it just shows that those policies do have some consequence.

Now, it's a combination of all of the things I just talked about. It is a very, very difficult problem to solve, but you can't solve it by just trying to step back and letting the cauldron simmer on its own. We have to be a part of it, and it doesn't mean militarily.

It doesn't mean investing billions and billions and billions of dollars. It's a combination of showing strength and showing up. We have to be there. If Israel is --

WALLACE: Let me just interrupt for a second because I want to get to this point.

ROGERS: Yes?

WALLACE: Obviously, relationships were going to be much more complicated after the Arab spring, democracies replaced dictatorships. Islamic groups were allowed to protest in the streets where before they had been crushed. Fairly, given this changing situation, could the administration, the president, have done more to aggressively advance our interests in this changing Middle East?

ROGERS: I'm hot going to say it's not hard. I think these are hard problems.
But I do think that it's important that with U.S. leadership, you don't allow these governments to fan the flames of anti-Americanism for their own domestic consumption and do the wink, wink, nudge, nudge which exchange public statements about how we all don't like it. That is not a good policy and is not going to solve the problem.

You need very direct conversations. You need public conversations and I think from the president as well and I hope he does start to engage in a public way in foreign policy that helps set the record straight about the United States position.

And again, saying that we have great relationships. Saying everything is wonderful. Saying it's just this one video causing all of this problem, I mean, obviously, the bad guys are going to use this as a reason to do what they have already been doing.

But we need more than that. And that's where I hope -- maybe there's a silver line in this, Chris and we can turn this around.

This shouldn't be about the election. It can't be about the election. It has to be about standing up for our national security issues because it's going to impact us no matter who wins in November and it has -- as we can see -- very serious consequences if we he don't get it right.

WALLACE: Congressman, should the U.S. -- and this is a decision you're going to have to make as a member of Congress -- should the U.S. either cut off aid to countries like Egypt and Libya or at least delay it, conditioned it, on the idea that that you have to show that you are willing to protect U.S. interests, whether it's literally protecting our embassies and diplomats or protecting U.S. -- or advancing U.S. policies?

ROGERS: Well, the first thing is they are obligated to protect our embassy. I wouldn't make that a condition of anything. They need to do that today, without excuse and without delay.

On top of that, I think we can condition aid. You know, I always said, if we just completely pull out of Egypt, is America better off or worse off when it comes to being able to influence a better outcome for peace?

I think it's probably better that we have some influence in Egypt that we can have conversations about, hey, you don't want to provoke Israel, you don't want to continue on with this anti-Americanism. But it has to be conditioned. We shouldn't just give the money and hope for the best. That's not going to work.

I think that if we condition the spending and understand it's OK to ask for something that is in our best interest. We shouldn't apologize for that. We shouldn't say that's offensive to anyone. It's our money. It's taxpayer money and we ought to say here is what we really want to have happen.

And that good influence of the United States, really we prefer commerce over conflict, and if we can continue to promote that around the world, the world is going to be a better place. We have to be there for that to happen.

So, I wouldn't run away from the money right away and say, we're going punish you immediately, but we are going to condition it. And, by the way, if you don't do what you ask us to do, then we're going to take the money away.

It's in our best interest to do it.

WALLACE: Congressman Rogers, we want to thank you so much for bringing us up to date on the investigation of that deadly attack in Libya and the whole rest of the situation in the Middle East. Congressman, thank you.

ROGERS: Hey, thanks, Chris. Appreciate it.

WALLACE: Coming up, what happens now to the president's Middle East policy? We'll bring our Sunday group into the conversation when we come right back.

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