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REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN : Candy, thanks for having me back.
CROWLEY: Tell me what we now know about what happened in Benghazi with the murder of those four Americans?
ROGERS: Well, there's still a little bit of confusion, but it's very clear as even I said last week this had to be a pre-planned event. We know it was an act of terrorism. I think the administration has come to the conclusion it's an act of terrorism now.
So we had two separate events. You see what's playing out now with people trying to get their militias under control, which those -- that's been a huge problem. I think this is more than that. This is clearly a specific attack on our U.S. embassy, and it kills a U.S...
CROWLEY: Was it aimed at the ambassador?
ROGERS: Well, that's still unclear. There still is some indication that they may have, in fact, known the ambassador was either there or in the area at the time of the attack, but 9/11 is probably more important to that equation than even the ambassador.
I do think it was wildly successful even beyond their dreams to be able to kill, you know, the American face in Libya, our United States ambassador, and...
CROWLEY: Who were they?
ROGERS: I still -- we don't know for sure and for certain yet. We have at least i look at the information have a high degree of probability that it is an al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliated group that had a very specific target in mind, and that was to attack the consulate and cause as much harm, chaos, and death as possible.
CROWLEY: And was there, in fact, a protest about this film going on outside the consulate at the time this occurred or was this just a one-off attack?
ROGERS: I believe this was an attack. The notion about the film, and I think the administration was ill-advised to push down that road.
CROWLEY: Right. And to assume that that's why everybody was there, but my broader question that I want you to also say that, but the -- my broader question is if we were told that there was outside the consulate a protest going on as there have been in 20 or more countries about this film and that somehow inside that group there were people who were heavily armed who launched this attack, Was there any protest at all going on?
ROGERS: I have seen no information that shows that there was a protest going on as you have seen around any other embassy at the time. It was clearly designed to be an attack. And what's so egregious about this is that -- and why every American should be offended, this isn't about George Bush or Barack Obama, it's not about Republicans, it's not about Democrats, they targeted and killed the face of the United States of America, a U.S. ambassador, and three embassy employees who were there dedicated to work in the United States of America.
This as a serious event as I have ever seen. And it's been confusing to try to follow where the administration has been. I'm disappointed the president didn't say I'm not going to the fundraiser, I am going to go on national TV and put this right, Americans deserve the truth. They deserve the facts. And they deserve to tell the world we will not tolerate a U.S. ambassador being treated badly, let alone killed.
CROWLEY: A stronger message from the president, a more national message than what you had hoped for.
ROGERS: We would hope a strong message, but some message. America -- the president needs to go on TV and set this right. This can't be about the election, it has to be about an American ambassador who was killed. This is our foreign policy, our national security here is at stake. He needs to be out front and leading on this issue. He shouldn't wait until after.
CROWLEY: Can I put you in the column of those Republicans who are upset with the administration for a lack of communication with those of you in congress who have this particular purview?
ROGERS: Well, I'm in a different role. I'm the chairman of the intelligence committee. We don't only get formal briefings, but we collect our information from the intelligence community in a variety of ways. I have heard the complaints. I did go to the briefing and thought not a lot came out of it, and it seemed that they doubled down.
Well, I think they doubled down. I think they thought that they were boxed in a corner, and they had to double down on their information. It was a little confusing to me. I didn't understand why they chose to do that. And then I think they made a follow-on mistake by buying the advertisement in Pakistan.
The administration gave credibility to this video that certainly nobody in America had seen and very few across the Middle East.
CROWLEY: You are talking about - that there was advertisement in Pakistan of both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the president saying we had nothing to do with this film? Bad idea you think?
ROGERS: I think it was a horrible idea. It gave credibility, and then it gave a permission slip to al Qaeda, to Pakistani officials. You saw the minister come out and say he was offering $100,000 to the death of the person who produced the video. This is a minister of the government of Pakistan. It gave a permission slip because of this attention and credibility that was given to this video that should not have been given by our president and our secretary of state.
And as you have seen, it hasn't been effective. I'm not sure who gave them the advice. I thought it was horrible advice. I think they have exacerbated the problem, and I think hopefully we shake ourselves out of this.
This is a national security issue that we'll have to deal with whomever wins in November. This is a big deal for the national security to the United States of America.
CROWLEY: Let me read to you something that Mohammed Morsi, the president of Egypt as you know, said to the New York Times." He was talking about the U.S. dealing with the blowback that we have seen across the Middle East.
And he said "successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of this region." Is this the word of an ally here? Is this what you want the guy to be saying? We're giving them money? We're...
ROGERS: Very concerning, and here's the problem. They have -- after he was elected in violation with the treaty of Israel, they moved tanks, heavy armor, into the Sinai. And they did it on their own. And we're not dealing very well with it.
So, what you are finding is he has a horrible economic problem in his country. He has a huge problem to deal with. It's best in those times a politician like Morsi to find somebody to blame. He is tough on the United States. He is going to be tough on Israel. Don't worry about the fact that you don't have a job or a future in Egypt.
CROWLEY: Yeah, but we are giving him money. I guess that's the concern.
CROWLEY: And I understand that we need to try to stabilize and that you supported the administration saying, look, we have to be players here. We can't just, you know, walk away. But the fact of the matter is that every time you turn around, the president, I get that he is playing to his home audience, is saying things that undermine how his citizenry look at the U.S., which is giving them money.
ROGERS: Well, and this is the huge problem here. Because it's not just in this particular case, it's in the protests over the film. Those governments are using that to incite trouble, violence, and political happiness with their own regimes in those particular countries.
CROWLEY: So governments want these, because it makes us the bad guys, and they look better.
So that's why engagement and being aggressive diplomatically as well as follow-through is so important all across the Middle East. I had a very senior Middle Eastern Arab nation intelligence official after our meeting -- I said what would you ask of the United States if I could make you king for a day. He said please tell me what your Middle East policy is.
That's caused that confusion, that lack of this sense of disengagement, is causing us huge problems, and that's why I thought the reaction to what happened with the president and the secretary creating a television ad in Pakistan was just adding -- was fomenting the problem and giving permission slips for all of the bad actors to do bad things.
CROWLEY: Just quickly if I can regarding Syria. Dan Senor, as you know who is an adviser to Mitt Romney, was on TV the other day talking about how it's been a year since the president said, you know, Assad has to go. He is still there. He is still killing his own people, and Senor said the U.S. looks impotent. Do you agree with that assessment?
ROGERS: I will -- I just returned from the region recently. There is frustration from the region about the lack of leadership on the United States on this issue. I do think a slow walk to this was probably the right path, the problem is you have to do that with a sense of leadership by bringing people together. That part was missing. The slow walk was there with no U.S. leadership trying to bring Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the Qataris and the Jordanians to the table.
CROWLEY: Can I get a one word answer, agree or disagree, the U.S. looks impotent when it comes to Syria?
ROGERS: They're not looking good right now. Let's put it that way, Candy.
CROWLEY: Congressman Chairman, Mr. Chairman, thank you so much.
ROGERS: Thank you so much.
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