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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript


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BURNETT: Obviously, now hearing as Elise has been able to confirm that the White House -- there were a decision made as to some of these key things that obviously are now considered to be crucial to this -- essential to this attack were left out of the briefing points given to Congress and given to the American people. Why did that happen?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I can't say to why, but there are that's incredibly disturbing information and so there's two parts to this, Erin. One is the investigation itself. Listen this was not Barack Obama's ambassador. It wasn't the Democratic ambassador. It wasn't the Republican ambassador. It was the American ambassador. This was a terrorist attack against the United States of America that took the life of our U.S. ambassador and three very distinguished embassy employees. Americans deserve the truth. What happened?

And the reason that's so important isn't for the political fodder, it may or may not make in the next three weeks, but this is serious business. If you look at what happened in Kenya and Tunisia with the bombings there and then you have Tanzania -- excuse me -- and then you have the USS Cole in 2000, December, what happened with the 9/11 Commission they went back and said what happened when nothing happened when there wasn't any response is al Qaeda made the interpretation that it's OK to be more aggressive and then you had 9/11 that following year. And so this is important for two reasons.

One, I think Americans have the right and deserve the right to know it was their ambassador that was killed. There is certainly lots of misinformation flowing and I think political interpretation of intelligence is always a dangerous thing. And I don't care who does it. And lastly, what are we doing to track these people down and send the signal that we will not tolerate this? We risk another serious attack by not taking this seriously and that's my concern.

BURNETT: And let me ask you this key question. Is there any way that you could be persuaded by what some are saying may be what the administration is going to use to defend themselves on this, which is all right everybody, we knew it was al Qaeda-linked groups, but we didn't know which specific group and before we go out and use the word al Qaeda, willy-nilly (ph), we wanted to get that additional information. Is that something that would ever have you say, OK, that makes a little bit of sense?

ROGERS: That would have been great if they would have come out and said we didn't know what happened. We're going to take a few days and try to figure this out. That's not what they did. And matter of fact, I think the decisions that they made -- remember this wasn't the intelligence that was given them that was the problem. It was what they did with the intelligence that was given them that was the huge problem and it was a policymaker that I argued, huge mistake. So they came out and four days, as you pointed out, after the event and went on offense. No, this was just spontaneous. It was -- we couldn't have prevented it. We didn't know anything about it. A horrible way to get going and then the kicker is they blamed it on this video that nobody in America had seen and hardly anybody in the Middle East had seen --


ROGERS: -- and I argue that elevated. You just gave a permission slip to every bad guy across the Middle East to use that to their advantage and it resulted in U.S. taxpayer money being spent in Pakistan to try to defend the video that they believed was the problem --

BURNETT: Right, they ran an ad campaign -- yes --

ROGERS: Yes --

BURNETT: -- which was a significant ad buy in Pakistan.

ROGERS: Well and the problem with that, Erin, is it exacerbated the problem. And here's why people should be I think outraged is because that's not the information they had sitting on their desk. So they made all of these decisions and I argue maybe served to enflame the Middle East, enflame our troubles, and are just now and they can't even quite yet get out of this you know circling of the wagons, if you will.

BURNETT: So I want to know what word you think is the right word to use though. Did they -- I mean if they knew terrorists, they knew preplanned and they knew al Qaeda and they did not include it in the unclassified briefing did someone in the White House make a pointed decision to lie? Is that too strong a word?

ROGERS: Well I mean I'm not willing to say that today. I think that the information that we gather should lead us to the right answer to that question. It is very clear that there is an abundance now of information. The reason I came out on that last Sunday and haven't talked since is because I wanted to go through the information and make sure what did happen. What do we know happened --


ROGERS: -- and we didn't base it just on our briefings, by the way. As an intelligence committee we have other sources and our own methods to go out and collect information that we on an investigation will review like this.


ROGERS: To make sure we get the story right and it was clearly from the very beginning not lining up. So I think somebody deliberately made a decision to go in a direction that wasn't fully backed by the intelligence that gave them. Now, I think we're going to have to come to a conclusion of why that happened. I think the president needs to come out and explain this. I think the secretary of state needs to explain this and for a couple of reasons. Not just for Americans. I think we have the right to know, but the people who risk their lives every day in our embassies around the world, our intelligence officials who are risking their lives every day around the world, they have the right to know that their back is being covered by the United States and we're taking all the appropriate security measures not based on some political narrative, but what are the facts on the ground. Whoever wins in November, Erin, is going to have to deal with this --


ROGERS: Republican or Democrat and we better get it right for our national security.

BURNETT: We had spoken to someone who has spent a lot of time in North Africa studying al-Qaeda as an agent and has worked for the Pentagon for two decades who said that given the information we have now about what the White House knew and what they chose to put in the unclassified talking points, that there is evidence of a cover-up. I'm curious as to whether you agree with that and also whether you think and this I guess sort of evokes what happened with the Iraq war. Whether there was a cherry picking of information that would lead one to a conclusion, to a specific conclusion, maybe not the right conclusion, but would lead you to a conclusion in this case of a mob action that was spontaneous.

ROGERS: Well we're continuing to review. It is very clear to me that there was this -- they picked pieces of information for convenience sake that fit a narrative that they believed -- you know, I don't want to question their motive of what they thought they were doing. I don't know if it was political or not. I don't have any information (INAUDIBLE) political or not. It was clearly done. And I argue -- and I know other committees are going back to look at to see if Congress was deliberately misled, which would be a violation of the law. I'm not involved in that. They're going to have to fully I think go to the end of that. I would be careful about accusing anybody until that case came to a close, but clearly there were huge mistakes made here and huge I argue foreign policy mistakes were compounded by the original decision that they weren't going to use the information that the intelligence community was giving them and they were going to go off on their own. I think that's just -- it's a dangerous decision. I think we're seeing that now and we're going to pay a price for this and we're going to have to figure out how to put it back together.

BURNETT: Have -- have you been told you're going to get all of the cables that came from the consulate and the embassy in Benghazi to the U.S., anything in prior months and years to this that could have indicated that this was coming, especially in the months, the two or three months before?

ROGERS: We are -- we've requested the documents. They have yet to arrive. The cooperation is not what we had hoped. And I just hope that we don't have to ramp this up. This should be done in -- we should do this as an internal investigation so that we can move forward and make sure that the other embassies of the world that we don't not let al Qaeda off the hook on this and I'll tell you, again, that 9/11 Commission was very strong --


ROGERS: -- not responding to the USS Cole cost us -- may have cost us the 9/11 attack, but clearly it was in their mind that they could do more. We have to make sure that this gets shut off now. And I said at the beginning, Erin, I think it was even on your show that if a month from that event we're still talking about who is to blame and we haven't done anything about the people who have done it, we are in serious trouble from a national security perspective.


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