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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript: Foreign Nations and Policy


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CROWLEY (on-camera): With me now, the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, ranking member, Dutch Ruppersberger and chairman, Mike Rogers. Gentlemen, thank you. That's always nice to have both of you.

I want to start out with Israel because the president is making his first trip there as the president. One of his goals is to try to, again, convince the prime minister that the U.S. really will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. He said in an interview recently that the U.S. believes Iran is at least a year away from developing nuclear weapon capability. Prime Minister Netanyahu has always had a shorter timetable for that. What accounts for that difference?

ROGERS: Well, first of all, think about where Israel is in the world. So, there's southern partner for peace Egypt is no longer a reliable partner for peace. Syria is a mess and getting worse by the day, and the number of weapons systems and jihadists that are flooding Syria and have the potential to have those weapons systems throughout the Levant is really concerning, and oh by the way, have Iran threatening to annihilate Israel and clearly pursuing a nuclear weapon.

So, the analysts are close. There are some differences, and mainly, it's this thing called the dash. So, everybody agrees that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon program and the last part of it is, can they take the highly enriched uranium, weaponize it, and put it on a missile for use. And there is the debate, how long would it take to accomplish the last piece of that.

That's where the United States analysts are saying could be a year. I wouldn't be as certain where the president is, and the Israelis believe it's going to be sooner than that, and that's why the pressure is mounting for some action, maybe other than sanctions for Iran so they get the signal that we really won't tolerate them getting a nuclear weapon and then proliferating nuclear weapons across the Middle East.

CROWLEY: Would you agree, congressman that --

RUPPERSBERGER: I agree with what the chairman said, but --

CROWLEY: And let me just -- when you agree with him, do you mean that you also think it's the timetable is shorter than the year the president laid out?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, some of this is classified, but let's just say this, whether it's short or long, I think it's important to know and especially for Israel to know that President Obama has clearly said that we will not tolerate them having a nuclear weapon. And you know the president and Netanyahu are going to be meeting in Israel which is good.

I know that relationship has not been what it should be, but I think the fact that the president is going there and I think he'll reaffirm that we will not tolerate the Iran to have a nuclear weapons. Not only for Israel but for the whole region, because --

CROWLEY: We can't afford to be wrong about where the line is. We can't afford to miscalculate when they have it.

RUPPERSBERGER: You can't trust Iran. They're a rogue nation. They're exporting terrorism. They're cyberattack is out there. So, we have to deal with that issue, and I think, right now, with the president going to Israel that there, hopefully, will be some agreement between Netanyahu and the president.

CROWLEY: OK. Let me move you on to something that James Clapper, who is the director of the National Intelligence Agency, said Tuesday at the Senate Select Committee about a cyberattacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: When it comes to succinct (ph) threat areas, our statement this year leads with cyber, and it's hard to overemphasize its significance. We see indications that some terrorist organizations are interested in developing offensive cyber capabilities and as cyber criminals are using a growing black market to sell cyber tools that fall into the hands of both state and non- state actors.


CROWLEY: As clearly as you can, tell me what the threat is that he's talking about.

ROGERS: Well, there are different levels of the threat. There's the criminal threat and the organized criminal threat. As a matter of fact, the credit card in your viewer's wallet today will get hit about 300,000 times. People trying to get the information through the credit card company to steal money for them.

The next level up is cyber espionage, mainly by the nation state of China stealing intellectual property. In other words, the blueprints that allow to you build your product and have a job, they go in, steal it, repurpose it, and use it to artificially compete in the world market. That costs us real jobs.

And then, lastly, in the highest level is the military or cyberattack, meaning, they could shut down the financial institutions, our electric grid, and cause significant damage and harm to our economy.

CROWLEY: And this was the head of, you know, sort of our top spy guy saying that this is the number one threat. So, my guess is he's not talking about criminal activity getting your credit card. He's talking about terrorists, and yet, we hear we're maybe two years away from the capability and that's what we were told.

RUPPERSBERGER: We're not two years away at all. We're having attacks as we speak right now.

CROWLEY: By terrorists?

ROGERS: By nation states.

RUPPERSBERGER: Nation states.

CROWLEY: We certainly know that China is, or we believe China to be behind some of this industrial spying, but I'm talking about the last thing that he said about, and we know that terrorists are looking to do the kinds of things you talked about, shutting down --

ROGERS: Different issues here. We know that terrorists, non- nation states are seeking the capability to do cyberattacks.


ROGERS: They're probably not there yet. Here's the other problem, a non-rational actor, Iran, is already at the shores of the United States with cyberattacks, and that's what's so concerning. I think that's why all of us, Dutch and I have been working so hard on that.

RUPPERSBERGER: Let's talk about that. We have attacks right now. We know our Wall Street has been attacked. We have -- we have the capability other countries including Iran for destructive attacks to knock out our grid system, to attack some of our banks. We know that China, especially, has probably stolen more trade secrets, which relates to jobs and money.

The largest amount of theft in the history of the world, and we have got to stop this. Now, One of the issues out there, Mike and I have been working on this now for two years, and we put together a bill that would pass in a bipartisan manner that was last year. It went to the Senate and failed. And, you know, we have to move forward. And people are saying, why do we have to continue?

And that one year, we've had more attacks. We know "Washington Post," "New York Times" has been attacked. These attacks are getting a lot stronger. And people say to me, what keeps you up at night, because Mike and I are the Gang of Eight, and I'll say spicy food, weapons of mass destruction, and destructive cyberattacks.

And we have the capability to stop this, but we have to pass our bill, and our bill is only 37 pages. Our bill deals with privacy issues, and yet, we're still working with the White House and we're working with the Senate and working with the privacy groups to try to get a bill that will protect our privacy but protect us from these cyberattacks.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about a more traditional threat, and that is North Korea. It seems to me that the worry level of the United States has gone up since we got Kim Jong-Un. Why is that? Because we have sort of always thought that, yes, North Korea, it's a rogue state and it's private and we don't know what they're doing, but now, there seems to be some sort of urgency about their nuclear capabilities. Can they reach U.S. shores?

ROGERS: Well, they certainly have a ballistic missile that can reach U.S. shores. They just recently had their third nuclear test. And you know, there was lots of speculation about the tests, a lots of warning to the North Koreans not to do it. They pressed the head. So, you have a 28-year-old leader who is trying to prove himself to the military, and the military eager to have a saber rattling for their own self-interest, and the combination of that is proving to be very,very deadly.

So, the sheer threat that they would openly threaten a nuclear attack against the United States is problem enough, but their military movements along the DMZ, the demilitarized zone in North Korea, a whole new set of problems for us. It's the largest military in the world still in uniform.

This is something that we have to take seriously, and you can see that they're looking for some provocations, not just along the border, but there's some islands that they're interested in. A few years ago, they fired artillery on the island. This is very, very concerning as we just don't know the stability of their leader, again, 28 years old. We're just not confident that we know he wouldn't take those steps.

CROWLEY: We knew his father better.

ROGERS: Yes, absolutely.

CROWLEY: I have to move you on to a different subject simply because we were told that the FBI interviewed a man in connection with the 9/11 attack in Libya. Do you know if he was involved in the Benghazi attack? If he was, should he come here for trial?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, look, first the issue of trial is whether you come to the United States for a trial, a civil trial, or whether, you know, you are a prisoner and you're in Gitmo. I think it depends on a case by case basis. When you do go into the process of the civil court and you're what they call lawyer up, you have a lawyer, a lot of times, that's when the information stops.

And yet, history shows that some of the people that we have taken to civil court even after a lawyer, we've gotten information from. So, I think you have to look at the issue case by case, what happens. And I can tell you this, we, as a nation, are the strongest country in the world. And we need to show that we can try people and convict people in our country and protect witnesses and everything else. So, there are a lot of issues here, but it's got to depend on a case by case basis.

CROWLEY: Congressman, was this man involved in the Benghazi attack?

ROGERS: Well, we're not sure yet. We have pretty good indications that he is, at least, a highly suspected of being involved. And again, the problem with criminalizing this is that it lengthens the process. It slows everything down, and the key to these things is getting information soon. So, you don't want to bring somebody, have them mirandized which tells them you don't have to talk to us, and by the way, we'll pay for a lawyer in an enemy combatant situation.

That is exactly the wrong thing to do. When you criminalize it, as I said, it slows things down, and more importantly, it doesn't allow you to get the information you need to protect the United States.

CROWLEY: Congressman Mike Rogers, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, more trouble spots than time, but we really appreciate you this morning.

RUPPERSBERGER: Sure. Good to be here again.


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