CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Mike Rogers
Date: Oct. 19, 2012
Location: Unknown

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The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, is joining us.

First of all, is this guy supposedly out there in plain sight the individual or one of the individuals that killed these Americans in Benghazi?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's very likely that he had something to do with the operation.

There are individual report that actually had him on the ground on the day of the attack. Some of that is still being vetted to make sure that's accurate. But as the picture starts to unfold, it just doesn't look good that he was not involved in some way in this attack.

BLITZER: The documents that were released today by your counterpart, Darrell Issa, the chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, they are being condemned by the ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, pretty bitter between these two members of Congress, a Republican and a Democrat, Elijah Cummings saying these documents were released irresponsibly, promoting inaccurate information.

What do you think about all of this? Because you have been very responsible, and I know there is a much more collegial atmosphere on the Intelligence Committee, as opposed to the Governmental Affairs Committee.

ROGERS: Two big issues here.

One is the security itself around the facility, was it accurate? Were they making requests? That is really coming out of the Governmental Oversight Committee. They're asking those hard difficult questions. I think the evidence as they lay it out just is not very flattering at the end of the day.

BLITZER: Flattering to?

ROGERS: The administration.

Requests were made. The ambassador had clearly said I don't feel safe here, it looks more dangerous. At the same time, we have another set of issues. On the intelligence side, lots of streaming information that showed al Qaeda cells in Tunisia somewhat had moved in and out of Libya. You saw the al-Sharia developing itself and recruiting in and around Benghazi.

We saw al Qaeda elements and AQIM elements flowing in and out of Libya, Mali, Algeria, all of this happening all at the same time. And this threat information was well presented up to the 9/11 day of the attack. And I will tell you that we were in possession, we being the Intelligence Committee, within 12 hours of this attack that had said nothing about a demonstration, said nothing about a spontaneous event, and if you look at all of the information leading up to 9/11 that we had from an intelligence perspective and that report that came out, it's really confounding how you could come to a conclusion and then promote it for days in the face of all of that information that this was about a video.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I agree with you that there are two distinct lines of questioning going on, and two storylines really going on, the security situation and the requests for security, as well as the intelligence leading up to the night of the attack.

From everything you're seeing, all the cables coming out, and I know that you have seen far more than had been publicly released, do you think there is negligence here, or do you think as I think Secretary Clinton said recently that it was a fog of war kind of scenario, that there was misinformation coming out at the beginning?

ROGERS: I have to tell you -- I hate to come to the conclusion -- I just don't think they understood the gravity of what was happening.

Think about this. Nine days after 9/11, think about all of the threat information that we just we talked existed in a very growing, dangerous area. Mali had already gone bad probably with weapons from Libya, all of this is happening, all of that information is presented. And then in a separate strain, the information on the physical security of the embassy, and the ambassador was also happening.

Nine days into that, they used taxpayer dollars to advertise this video in Pakistan that has probably the lowest percentage of social media connection than all of the other countries that fueled the fire. It caused huge problems.

So we saw embassies all across the region under protest and under siege. Some accusations now that maybe al Qaeda was a part of some of those. It just didn't seem that they understood the gravity of what their actions were doing based on the information that they had.

BLITZER: I went back. The incident occurred in which the ambassador and three other Americans, two Navy SEALs were killed.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Former Navy SEALs, retired Navy SEALs. It happened on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, on September 11.

You and I were together right here in THE SITUATION ROOM on September 12, the day after. I had been working my sources, U.S. sources, Libyan sources, other sources. You were working your sources. We had this exchange. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Because it does look at least based on everything I have heard as a pretty sophisticated assassination effort to kill the United States ambassador. So, here's the question, was it time to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11?

ROGERS: I'm an old FBI guy, Wolf. And I got to tell you, I don't believe a lot of coincidences all in the same day. So, it certainly looks that way to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It certainly looked like that to me, based on everything I had been hearing in the 24 hours after we got wind of what was going on.

So the question is, first of all, do you still believe that, what you told me on the day after this incident?

ROGERS: I do.

This was clearly an attack. I think it was geared toward a 9/11 event. It was clearly a military style attack that was fairly well coordinated, well organized. They had blocking forces, they had artillery that many believed...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It was so obvious.

The question that perplexes me, why did it take so long for the U.S. intelligence community, forget about the Obama administration -- we're talking the intelligence community of the United States government, supposedly the best in the world. Why did it take them so long to come to the same conclusion that you and I came to within 24 hours of what happened?

ROGERS: Again, I want to say that we the committee were in possession of information that, provided by the intelligence community, that pretty much said this was a military style attack within less than 24 hours.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: When were you sure that these protests didn't exist, that this was premeditated?

ROGERS: It was probably early into the next week for sure and for certain.

Clearly, the information that was being laid out to us, and people that I talked to, including people there and other places in the government, that it was rolling out that clearly that narrative didn't fit what was happening.

And here is the important part of this. Bad decisions were made because of it. This is not just about the physical security in the State Department. That's a serious issue and needs to be -- I think Americans deserve the truth on that.

But bad decisions were made because of the narrative they were talking about by continuing to promote the video, by escalating the value and credibility of that video to a presidential level, by buying ads in Pakistan that actually fueled protests all across Pakistan, because they had not seen the video.

This is what is so disturbing to me about it. Were those decisions based on the intelligence? It's hard to say yes, so why did they do it?

That's the question I think we have to get answered.

BOLDUAN: Not answered.

BLITZER: And what is so perplexing to me, and we have to leave it here because we're out of time -- what is so perplexing is that five days later, just before Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went on five Sunday morning television shows, the intelligence community told her what they told her, and she repeated it on television five days later, after it was apparent to a lot of experts this was a carefully coordinated assassination attempt against the United States ambassador.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Well, something changed between that first 12-hour report and them going on and saying it. And that's what we're trying to get to the bottom of.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Susan Rice was saying what they told her to say, but that was obviously wrong.

Mr. Chairman, thanks coming in.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Thanks for having me. We appreciate it.

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