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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript

Interview

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BURNETT: Right. All right, Arwa Damon, thank you very much. Arwa has been doing all of this reporting tirelessly from the ground. Representative Mike Rogers is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He has been following developments in Libya, been briefed, and he is OUTFRONT tonight. Chairman, good to see you. We appreciate your taking the time.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: Now you just heard our Arwa Damon report. She had more details tonight, but that there had been warnings of a deteriorating security situation. Perhaps not of a specific attack, but that there had been other attacks and that there had been warnings. How could this happen in a country that the Libyan government says it was unable to even defend. It was unable to even defend the U.S. Consulate. How could it happen that our consulate was unguarded to the degree it was on September 11th in a country like that?

ROGERS: Well a couple of things. First of all, yes, we had gotten threat streams over time. Months, many months as a matter of fact. Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and Northern Africa was seeking to attack Western targets. We know at that very site there was ED (ph) about two months prior to. We know all of those things in fact happened, but here's what we need to be careful. It was a bit expeditionary, so we were asking this ambassador and embassy staff to be expeditionary, to go to dangerous places and try to forge ahead a U.S. establishment there and so we have to be careful. We asked him to do dangerous things knowing it was expeditionary. What we're trying to do now is make sure we didn't miss anything because we're going to ask these people and we do it all over the world to do really dangerous things. Now we don't want to take unnecessary risks. But we clearly asked them to take what we argue is necessary risks, so we have to determine was this a necessary risk or were they just ignoring all the signs around them that caused this to happen? And candidly, Erin, we just don't know for sure and for certain right today.

BURNETT: Right. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Bob Menendez have both been on this show and both have been very direct in answering the question, were we caught flat footed and said no. What's your reaction to that though? I mean it does seem -- I mean you know Arwa had reported she's been into the consulate. There wasn't even a safe room that had food or communications equipment in there which would be standard operating procedure anywhere. Never mind in a county that isn't really governed by a rule of law.

ROGERS: Well I don't know how you argue we weren't caught flat footed. They stormed our consulate, were successful in that and killed our ambassador and three other employees. That is being caught flat footed.

BURNETT: Yes.

ROGERS: Now, what we have to ask is tell me all the circumstances surrounding that. Was it -- did we know about it and just missed it or was this one of those things where we did we get caught flat footed and we -- an ambassador paid his life and those embassy employees paid with their lives for that consequence of being there.

BURNETT: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice said that this was not preplanned. I want to just play that for you and then get your reaction. Here she is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact, this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: As the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, do you believe her?

ROGERS: I'm not sure I believe her or not. I disagree with her clearly. All the information I see from the Department of Defense and our intelligence agencies, they're recommending at what something they call, Erin, a moderate degree of confidence, which is not solid --

BURNETT: Right.

ROGERS: -- that they think it was a spontaneous event. But there is lots of other information, some classified, some public, some open source, when you put it all together, when I look at the information, I mean it had indirect fire, artillery type fire from mortars. They had direct unit action. It was coordinated in a way that was very unusual. They repulsed a quick reaction force that came to the facility and then you look at other bits of information that we had including some that your reporter reported on that hey they were getting information that these extremists, some coming from other countries were coming around and they were having a very difficult time --

BURNETT: Right.

ROGERS: -- that all doesn't make sense to me. That certainly looks like it was a planned and coordinated event. Now, none of us know for sure to be fair, but to say for sure and for certain that this was a spontaneous event I just can't get --

BURNETT: You don't see it.

ROGERS: No, I can't see it.

BURNETT: You mentioned them coming from other countries. That's something the Libyan government has said. We've been talking about this for months, the rise of al-Qaeda in Northern Africa. You know and when you look at the map it's pretty stunning -- just throw it up for viewers -- I mean that is really the entire of Northern Africa, Mali among them and Chairman, actually, we went to the border of Mali in July to report on the al-Qaeda linked groups that -- militants who have taken over the northern part of the country and I'm just wondering from your point of view, do you think that we should regret what we did in Libya, the intervention, that it has caused so many weapons to go missing, to go all around North Africa (INAUDIBLE) al- Qaeda to rise in such a broad region?

ROGERS: The one mistake that we made and those of us who are voices of this very early on was not securing the weapon systems that were there. We knew that they had man pads (ph), anti-aircraft weapons and they had a whole cache, all spread across the country. Because remember dictators aren't worried about external threats. They're worried about internal threats, so the way they had the caches all around the country, once it happened and there was that period of chaos, this became an arms bizarre, so it's not unusual to understand that you had al-Qaeda, you had other groups. You had AQIM, which is affiliated with al Qaeda from Algiers, the (inaudible) who are -- you know have whole generations of contraband --

BURNETT: Yes.

ROGERS: -- and weapon sales and all of those things, all coming in saying we're going to get ourselves some weapons and I have argued both privately and publicly that Mali was the first victim of the Libyan revolution in the sense that those weapons ended up in the hands of people who try to overthrow the government of Mali. So, yes, I mean that was clearly a mistake. Now, we're going to have to rectify it and we're going to have to I think be more engaged, not less engaged to try to make sure we put a cap on this thing so that doesn't spread across the rest of Northern Africa and southern Europe and the Middle East.

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