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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" Transcript: Benghazi


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SCHIEFFER: Back now with Michigan Republican Congressman Mike Rogers. He chairs the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Chairman, you just heard what Lindsey Graham and Jack Reed were talking about there. Of course, people in the House don't vote on the confirmation. That's the Senate's business. But Senator Graham sounds pretty -- set that he's going to do everything he can to block this unless he gets some answers.

ROGERS: Well, I do think answers are appropriate. There was catastrophic failure in the decisions from -- on the security perspective from the State Department on keeping the ambassador and the employees in Benghazi safe. That, to me, is clear. We've done our intelligence investigation in the House, some 4,000 cables and documents. It was clear that the threat stream was very real, which is why I think the -- Secretary of Defense Panetta said, yes, they knew that night, and the joint chiefs said in testimony, yes, they knew that night it was a terrorist attack, just by the sheer volume. So the question here is what happened? Why did the State Department fail those people that were in the field in Benghazi? That is not clear yet, and I think the American people deserve at least to understand what failures happened and how we're going to prevent that moving forward.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about something that former Vice President Dick Cheney said last night. Dick Cheney has had that heart transplant. He seems to be up and running and going full steam. He told a group of Republicans last night, talking about the nominees that the president has put forward so far -- he said, "The performance now" -- this is a direct quote. "The performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal. Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people." What would you say about that?

ROGERS: Well, I know one thing. We have first-rate problems. When you look at the disintegration of security in northern Africa, the growing and metastasizing of Al Qaida in the northern Maghreb area...

SCHIEFFER: But, I mean, do you think these people are up to the job? Do you think Mr. Cheney is right or is that maybe a little beyond where you would -- how you would...

ROGERS: It may be a little beyond where I'm going. I do believe that the policy formation that we're walking into here, when it comes to Syria, which is -- by the way, there is now no good solution in Syria today. It is -- the best thing we can hope for is the best worst option moving forward. We need very quickly to turn the tide in Syria. And I don't mean to win it. I mean just to get us in a position where we can mitigate what bad things are going to happen in Syria in the months ahead. Same with northern Africa. We have got huge, dangerous challenges approaching the United States, and I don't believe we've configured ourselves, our resources or our policy to confront them in a way that will make an impact.

SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you this whole situation about drones, when we should use them, how we should use them. First off, has the administration been straight with Congress in sharing information on what the rules are about using these weapons?

ROGERS: I think they have. Listen, for months -- there's a change in 2008 in July under the previous administration, George Bush, that changed the way we could use air strikes to target belligerents or al Qaeda, who are planning to kill Americans. That changed in July of '08. And it ramped up. And that was taken over when Barack Obama became president. And as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, even as a member, was aware and part of those discussions. And now as chairman, even before they conducted that first air strike that took Awlaki -- and remember, this is the guy that was trying to kill some -- a whole bunch of U.S. citizens over Detroit on Christmas Day. This guy was a bad guy. So our options were limited. This was a tool that we could use to stop further terrorist attacks against Americans. I supported it then. Monthly, I have my committee go to the CIA to review them. I as chairman review every single air strike that we use in the war on terror, both from the civilian and the military side when it comes to terrorist strikes. There is plenty of oversight here. There's not an American list somewhere overseas for targeting. That does not exist. And I think there has been some sensationalism, Bob. This is a serious matter, but I do think that the oversight rules have been, I think, consistent...

SCHIEFFER: It is an extremely complicated matter. But what about the argument that civil liberties groups make that if a person is a U.S. citizen, even if he's a bad guy, he has certain rights under the Constitution. And you can't just say, OK, we're going to kill him.

ROGERS: In the United States, that's true. If you join forces with the enemy, we have a long-standing tradition in this country that, that in and of itself, you lose your constitutional protections. You are engaged in belligerent activities against the United States. And this happened in World War I, in World War II, where Americans would join forces with people who were in -- at war with the United States, and when you do that, you sacrifice your rights. So this is someone who had sworn off his citizenship, had been actively planning terrorist attacks against the United States, the most notable was the one over Detroit on Christmas Day. And but for a quarter of an inch of an injector, that would have gone off and killed hundreds on the plane, and if not thousands on the ground. This was a -- he was a serious al Qaeda player. He picked his team. This is not an American citizen of the United States. Does not apply, none of this. This is only enemy belligerence, joined forces with the enemy overseas. SCHIEFFER: We're going to ask you to stick around for "Page Two," because we're going to talk about this whole idea of, is the United States vulnerable to a cyber attacks and how much of a problem that is. I know you have some thoughts about that. So we'll be interested to hear what you have to say. You'll be with us with a panel of experts on "Page Two." Mr. Chairman, until then, thanks. I'll be back in a moment now with some personal thoughts.

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