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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Boston Marathon Bombers and Syria's Use of Sarin Gas


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BLITZER: And Representative Mike Rogers is joining us, he's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.


Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: How serious is word now that these two brothers were actually planning on driving into New York City, and setting off a bomb at Times Square?

ROGERS: Well, that part I have not heard exactly that way, Wolf. Let me tell you what I know about that. So what we know happened is that we do believe they had a plan for another attack. They had actually built the devices, and not used them.

But from the investigators I've been talking to, they believe it was going to be probably more likely in the Boston area. They really did believe they weren't going to get caught. The notion that they decided to go to New York was a rushed event after this thing unraveled on them.

Their pictures were, you know, plastered all over the media, and the tips started flowing in. They knew they had trouble. So they needed to generate some cash, the hijacking, the theft of the credit cards -- or ATM cards and that kind of thing, the robbery. All of that was designed to get them ready, we believe at this point, to go to New York.

It's not clear to me that they were actually going to set those devices off, even though they had them with them. So it certainly would make it a plausible thing to have happen, but it's more plausible to me they were going to do another event in the Boston area, and they were hiding out in New York City was their plan.

BLITZER: Is it clear to you yet whether these two guys were acting alone, or that they were working with others, and perhaps even with some sort of organization?

ROGERS: There is no right answer on this yet. I believe after seeing everything that I've seen, we just don't know enough about that six months or so in Russia, what happened there. I think that's the time he flipped from being an extremist radicalization process to actually a violent jihadi.

And we also know there are persons of interest that we still need to talk to in this particular investigation, including areas -- in the areas of which he lived. So there are some questions we just don't know the answers to yet. I think it's too early to rule it out. And we've got a lot more work to do.

BLITZER: CNN's Drew Griffin has been reporting on two foreign students at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, students from Kazakstan who were taken into custody last week. One of whom was pictured, actually, in a photograph together with the younger Tsarnaev brother at Times Square last year, when they were visiting New York. They're still being held.

Do you know anything about why these two students from Kazakstan are being held?

ROGERS: Not the particular charges of why they might be held. But, listen, when this is unraveling, you're seeing a lot -- there's persons of interest that haven't quite risen to the level of maybe media attention yet, let's say. And so that part of the investigation is ongoing.

I would not draw any firm conclusions yet. There's just too much we have to answer, and too much we have to get done in order to fill in all these blanks. And, again, a big part of this is what happened in those six months. The Russian government is not quite cooperating yet, Wolf, to the extent that I think is appropriate.

I know that Congress is going to have conversations with the Russian government. The administration is going to have conversations with the Russian government.

We believe, I believe, Mike Rogers believes that they have information that will be incredibly valuable to make their determination of how much we have to worry back here, who they talked to, who was involved in that. And we just haven't gotten that level of cooperation yet. That's going to be important.

Talking to the persons of interest back here is going to be important. And, again, that is kind of the unfolding part of the aftermath of last week's bombing.

BLITZER: Do you know if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- the 19-year-old who is in a hospital in Boston, he was given his Miranda rights, do you know if he's answering FBI or other questions since he was Mirandized?

ROGERS: Yes. And let me tell you something on this, Wolf, that I am very, very concerned of. I've never seen this before. So he's arrested Friday night. The magistrate, the judge intervenes into what is a legal activity, the interview, that was deemed so by a U.S. court decision. And that is the public safety exception to Mirandizing.

So you have to think about it. He's going through. He's obviously seriously wounded. He's losing a lot of blood. He has to get the medical attention. Early on in that weekend the judge calls to -- calls out and says, I'm going to show up for this particular event.

That is highly unusual for a judge to intervene so hastily, and make the decision not based on the facts of the interviews, and the public safety exception, but what they perceived was happening based on what they saw on television.

It's dangerous. It's precedent-setting that I think we need to change and correct right away. And we still need more answers on this particular question. Once they walked into the hospital room, and offered the lawyer, and Mirandized, they hadn't -- as sure as I'm standing here right now, the subject has not continued to cooperate with the authorities. And that's a huge problem. We didn't have all the answers, are there more devices? We didn't have answers on the persons of interest we'd like to talk to. All of that was left on the table and now they have to go back and take the very time-consuming effort to try to track this thing down in the interest of public safety.

BLITZER: So what I don't understand, if there was that public safety exception that they wanted to use, why would the judge -- the judge magistrate then come in and interrupt what clearly must have been a very frustrating period for FBI investigators who seemed to be getting a little bit of cooperation from him?

ROGERS: That's the million-dollar question, Wolf. And it's a problem we have to get answered. And we need to have a public dialogue about what this means.

Remember now, this happened earlier in the weekend. There was some misinformation that they stormed into the hospital and stopped the interrogation. That in fact didn't happen. But what they did do is pick up the phone and say, we're coming. We're coming to see you all.

So the DOJ didn't call, according to the senior DOJ officials to me today. The U.S. attorney didn't say, pick up the phone and call the magistrate and try to arrange it at the hospital. And certainly the FBI investigators said, we needed more time.

Now, remember, he's in and out of consciousness. He's going for medical treatment. So they didn't have enough time to start reconciling some inconsistencies in this conversation. And it takes a little time to build rapport, where finally somebody says, all right, I'm done lying to you, I'm going to tell you exactly how it happened.

I don't -- they don't believe they got there. Clearly I don't believe they got there. And I don't know to this -- today why a judge would intervene in that process when they were exercising what the U.S. Supreme Court said was a legal enterprise by using the public safety exception in those interviews.

BLITZER: So let me just get your sense on the Russian connection right now. Do you know why the Russians were concerned about these -- about the older brother to begin with, and why on two occasions they notified the FBI and later they notified the CIA?

ROGERS: Yes. And to be clear, they really weren't two separate instances. The FSB for years was a hostile intelligence service to the FBI and our CIA. So they gave limited notification. The FBI received that information. And from what they received, conducted a pretty thorough review of that case to see if there was any derogatory information of which they could do more with.

Could they go up on his phones, get a FISA, go get a court order, interception of his phones. None of that happened. No derogatory information. At the same time the CIA received exactly the same information in exactly the same form. So there wasn't -- it was more of a procedural thing than it was that they were so concerned that they notified two different places on two different dates. I don't believe that happened. I believe it was more of a process issue with the FSB.

Now the FBI writes back and says, hey, we need a little help here. We didn't really find anything. Can we have some clarification? No response. They ask again. No response. And so that was the problem that we ran into. So they cooperated a little. They didn't cooperate enough. I believe they have information that is valuable to our investigation here to determine, A, are there persons of interest here? What activities happened in Russia at the time? What training did he receive? Who did he talk to? Where did he go?

And remember where he was, Wolf. He was just at a short distance drive from very hardened terrorists, if you will, who have trained on bombs, who have engaged in regular convention forces, some wounded.

I mean, these are some pretty tough bunch of folks who had the ability to train anybody who was interested in getting that training. So we need to filter all of that out. The Russians can be very, very helpful.

To date I would not say they have been so helpful.

BLITZER: So, so far, they haven't given the answers that you're looking for?

ROGERS: They just haven't been open about it. Now they've come to some conclusions that they've been interested in peddling. I just argue that we need to see all the information. And if they were so inclined, they could do that, to give us the information that we would need, again, to make that determination.

Were there more persons of interest here that we haven't picked up on yet? And, what happened in Russia during those six months? A lot of questions there that they really haven't been willing to answer.


BLITZER: Yesterday I spoke to the ex-brother-in-law of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. He was in Kazakstan. And he said that he was brainwashed, the older brother, by some mysterious Armenian who had converted to Islam, known only as "Misha."

Do you know anything about this?

ROGERS: We can't find anything on that particular name or individual. I will tell you there are persons of interest that we're very concerned about. And, again, the Russians can be very, very helpful, we think, in helping us make that determination about who they talk to there, who they may have communicated there -- who they may have then communicated with back in the United States.

So that -- we're still working on that piece of it, the investigation is. And, again, there are persons of interest that we're very, very interested in. And, again, getting back to that public safety exception, wouldn't it have been great if they hadn't intervened in that case and he could've cooperated a bit into the circle of individuals that may, in fact, have led to the bombing in Boston. We don't know that. But we don't know it isn't so. And we do know that they had more than enough devices to have a second event. All of that is concerning.

BLITZER: Are those persons of interest that you're interested in over there in Russia or someplace? Or are they here in the United States?

ROGERS: You know, I would argue that they're here in the United States, and we just don't yet have a good list of persons of interest in Russia. We have people that we want to talk to, people we want to have some conversations with, we think that can further develop.

Again, you know, our investigators will go to every inch to cover every inch of this story -- or this investigation. But they will need a little help from the Russians. And I argue we could save ourselves a lot of time if we can get the Russians to cooperate fully. And I hope they do that. I think it would be the right thing to do.


BLITZER: Interesting. Thanks very much, Tom Foreman.

I spoke about all of this just a little while ago with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the Republican congressman, Mike Rogers.


BLITZER: Have they crossed that so-called red line, the game changer, as the president has suggested? By -- by now the intelligence community, as you know, believing with some varying degrees of credibility that they have, in fact, the Syrian regime, used sarin gas, chemical weapons against the rebels?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, if you look at the body of intelligence over the last two years, Wolf, I think it is fairly indisputable at this point that some quantity of chemical weapons has been used.

So now you have the Brits have said it. The Israelis have said it. The French have said it. And now the White House and the secretary of defense has acknowledged that they believe that there's some chemical weapons used.

It's hard to make the statement on August 20 that the president said if they move weapons in a position to be used, or use them it would be a game changer, or red line.

You know, I argue that, if you're going to have credibility in the world, and that's important in a more destabilized world with more people trying to do harm to us and our allies, that a red line needs to be a red line. It can't be a dotted line, and it can't be some different color. It has to be held firm.

Now, that means we have to show leadership, Wolf. And it doesn't mean big military; it doesn't mean, you know, troops on the ground. It means none of that. But we have to regain the confidence of the opposition, who don't trust the United States anymore. And you have to regain the confidence of our Arab League partners, who are incredibly frustrated with us.


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