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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Syria and NSA Surveillance

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ACOSTA: All right, Frederik Pleitgen, thank you.

We're now joined by Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, Democrat of Maryland. He's the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

And, Congressman, you just heard Frederik Pleitgen's report from Syria. The White House says they are providing military support. And it sounds like it's at a critical time for the rebel opposition there. What do you make of the decision and do you feel like this is overdue?

REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D), MARYLAND: Well, no.

The first thing, we have to get proof. And the proof is -- and our intelligence community has confirmed that these chemical weapons were used. That was a red line. We have to be involved. We have to stop it. And we have to do what we can do to help train and help assist the rebels.

That does not mean we are putting boots on the ground. That does not mean that we're going to do the things that we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan.

ACOSTA: And, Congressman, is -- are weapons going to be enough? Is a no-fly zone in order?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, right now, there's a lot of momentum, no, question going with Assad's regime.

One of the main reasons is because of Hezbollah. And Hezbollah has troops on the ground and they have made a difference so far. Now, as far as the no-fly zone, I'm not going to discuss that now because we're evaluating it. But Syria is a lot more sophisticated than what we did in Libya.

We do -- we are the strongest country in the world. We can coordinate and show leadership with the other countries that are involved. We know that there's a lot of concern from the Arab League and the Arab countries. And they are looking for coordination and leadership. And I think that's what we can provide. We have the best intelligence in the world, and we know how to train people.

ACOSTA: And, Congressman, let me switch over to the issue of the National Security Agency.

As you know, General Alexander, the head of the NSA, has been up on Capitol Hill briefing members of Congress.

Are you satisfied -- I know you're on the intelligence committee so you're privy to a lot of this information that perhaps your colleagues are not -- but do you get the sense now that your colleagues are feeling more comfortable with the level of information that is being shared?

RUPPERSBERGER: The most important thing that we can do, and Chairman Mike Rogers and I are talking to Alexander today, said we're going to try to give as much information to the public and to our members of Congress so they know why we're doing what we do. We're not breaking any laws. We're following the law. We're doing everything pursuant to a law passed by Congress.

But it's a dangerous world out there. The cyber world is dangerous. And we know if we're going to stop terrorism, we're going to protect our country, we have to use unique resources in the cyber realm.

So when the first -- the news information came out, of course, most people who aren't aware are thinking, "My gosh, the government is listening to me." That's not the case.

There's no names involved. It's just a large inventory of phone numbers without major addresses and once we have information that there could be a connection with terrorists. And if it's going to be in the United States, we turn that over -- the intelligence community turns it over to the FBI and then the courts get involved.

So we need to educate and we need to educate exactly that we're following the law, following the constitution, and that there is no invasion of privacy whatsoever. But it's a dangerous world out there.

Congressman, I know that you and Chairman Rogers were talking about Edward Snowden earlier today.

RUPPERSBERGER: Sure.

ACOSTA: And you said that he should not be regarded as a hero. Does that mean that he should be regarded, in your mind, as a traitor?

RUPPERSBERGER: I'm not going to say what I would really like to say? Because what he has done...

ACOSTA: Why not?

RUPPERSBERGER: Because I think that he's done a terrible thing. He's put lives at risk not only now but in the future. He -- if he didn't like the way things were happening, he could raise his hand, and he could say, you know, that "I don't like what's going on," and there are whistleblower laws that will protect him.

What did he do? He goes to China who we know that China has been cyber attacking us and stealing many, many -- a lot of information from our businesses, has cost us close to $400 billion. And yet, he is over, working with China, hiding in China.

And I just don't have a lot of respect for what he did and how he did it but the investigation is continuing to go on to see whether we can bring him back and hopefully bring him to justice. He broke the law. And when you break the law in our country, you need to be held accountable. But he needs to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that's part of our system.

ACOSTA: All right. Congressman Ruppersberger, thank you very much for your time during this very busy time.

RUPPERSBERGER: OK. Right. A lot going on.

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