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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript

Interview

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BURNETT: All right. Hillary Clinton also responded to Issa with a letter of her own. I have it here. She said she has established an accountability review board, which begins work this week to determine, and I want to quote her, I'll read here to you straight from the letter, "wants to determine whether our security systems and procedures in Benghazi were adequate, whether they were properly implemented and any lessons that may be relevant to our work around the world." Darrell Issa joins me now. Good to see you, sir, and appreciate your taking the time tonight.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Well thank you. And thanks for covering this.

BURNETT: Let me start, if I may, sir, with the serious allegation that you've made. And this one -- as I just read the quote from your letter. That the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi, which were denied. Where did you get that information?

ISSA: We got it from whistle blowers and from confirmation from an interview with the former regional security officer, what is called an RSO, who actually has over 66 separate incidents that he recorded. We're not making any allegations. We're taking the facts that were brought to us, putting them in perspective, and asking the question, and getting, quite frankly concerns from the individuals that themselves that were responsible for security. And we're doing it not just for what is a done and sad situation in Libya. But because with the Arab Spring going on around the Arab world, the question is what are we doing in these other countries? Will we be ready or could this happen again?

BURNETT: So do you know who denied the security that you're saying was repeatedly denied?

ISSA: Well, we have a number of documents we have requested. Secretary Clinton has said that she is going to cooperate and provide. Those exchanges -- we want to make sure we look at all of the documents fully, rather than just, if you will, whistle blower side of the story. And that's the nature of our committee, is we get a credible and verified allegation of a failure anywhere, and then we follow it up with full confirmation on both sides and that's what we expect to do between now and the 10th with the goal on the 10th to make sure this doesn't happen again in some other embassy or with some other foreign service personnel around the world.

BURNETT: So it's interesting, because I know you're referencing you know an individual that you have information from saying that there were multiple security incidents. But this issue of repeated requests being denied I think is really at the heart -- from -- of what the letter says today. And the reason I wanted to ask you about the sources is because the State Department is telling CNN tonight that security upgrades were actually made to the Benghazi mission in part in response to some of the security incidents that you reference in your letter. So what are you talking about? It sounds like they got more security.

ISSA: Well, first of all, we want to hear fully from the State Department. We want to understand how they evaluated the threat, why there were so few people. Remember that we're not investigating per se the details the day that the ambassador and his party were killed. But let's understand, clearly he had almost no security on that day. Clearly, this was in a consulate that had been breached earlier with a hole -- an explosive hole that was described as a hole --

BURNETT: True.

ISSA: -- that 40 people could run through. So we already kind of know the awful end result. We know there wasn't enough security. That's not our investigation. Our investigation is really about the signs and whether there's a process. And I think Secretary Clinton is saying she wants to do the same thing. And our hope is that between now and October 10th, we go a long way toward doing what we need to do and expecting it will continue after.

BURNETT: Why do you think it has taken so long for the administration to come out and say this was a terrorist attack? Obviously, they did so formally on Friday, the intelligence community.

ISSA: Well, I served on the Select Intelligence Committee. It's filled with very conservative people who will often tell you that there may be a threat, there may be a threat, and then when something happens, even if it fits all of their claims, they still want to double and triple check. So I give the administration as much as I can the benefit of the doubt for the slowness. Again, though, whistle blowers, multiple confirmed whistle blowers have told us that they saw and reported what they saw as coming together of al Qaeda and testing our missions and the British missions. And that's part of what we want to ask is are these warning signs ones that should have been heeded and are there similar ones in Beirut or in Oman or in any number of other countries in the Middle East.

BURNETT: I'm curious, because you know you sound so -- you're very calm here. Your letter though was -- you know -- like I said, there were some real smoking guns in that letter, the allegations that were in there and I'm curious, given how calm you are tonight, given that you say you want to work with the secretary of state, why was it that Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of your committee tells us that you didn't ask him to sign the letter. You know you didn't do this in a bipartisan fashion.

ISSA: Well, first of all, I expect that the hearing will be bipartisan. A number of the Democratic members have already told me they'll be attending. I just got off of "Fast and Furious". We're not a committee that we've seen much cooperation, even when there's real wrongdoing that we're running to ground. In this case, there wasn't time to meet our statutory requirements, our rule requirements. And quite frankly we had a meeting with state in which the -- Mr. Cummings, his representatives were there. We asked these questions. This letter is based on specific allegations from whistle blowers, confirmed by the regional security officer, and then put into a letter. So they're not allegations by us. They're actual statements by individuals who were on the ground, both in Tripoli and Benghazi. And we are pursuing this on a bipartisan basis. To be honest, Mr. Cummings was helpful when I called him and asked for this interview with the regional security officer and he helped make it happen the same day, so we do have a working relationship. We do not often sign on to letters partially because that can take several days --

BURNETT: And what about --

ISSA: But I think the letter is --

BURNETT: I just want to ask you -- sorry -- a final question though about the timing of this. Obviously, it's important to know who knew what, when, and if the ball was dropped. I don't know if there is any American, Democrat or Republican who would disagree with you on that, but why next week? Why ahead of the presidential election when you yourself just said look I understand that sometimes it takes time to get the final answers?

ISSA: Erin, we sent a letter on September 20th that wasn't responded to as of yesterday. Subcommittee Chairman Chaffetz sent that letter. So we started this right away. We continued pursuing it. But let's understand men and women are serving us overseas around the world. And if what happened in Libya happens again because we waited until after election, 30 or 60 days, then we haven't done our job. The secretary is working right now before the election. She has put together a panel to start looking at this. We're doing our job, too. And just because it's an election doesn't mean members of Congress shouldn't work, including fact-finding and that's what we're doing. We're doing it as timely as we can. Candidly, I would have preferred that the September 20th letter had been responded to sooner.

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