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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript - Foreign Policy in Syria and NSA Surveillance


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SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers. He's in Mackinaw City, Michigan, this morning. Let me just start with the -- you heard Mr. McDonough talking about aid for the Syrian rebels. We don't have any real idea of what aid the administration is planning to send them, other than they're just going to send some. At this point, Mr. Chairman, do you think Congress will go along with the president's request for military aid to the Syrian rebels?

ROGERS: Yes, I think if a request were presented tomorrow morning, I don't think that they would. The administration needs to come up to Congress and make a comprehensive case. What is the plan? Where are we going on Syria? And what do you want to accomplish? Some of the things that they've told us -- told the committee -- the Intelligence Committee in the past doesn't comport with what they're presenting as the direction they want to go. So we've asked them to come up and say, if we're going to move in this direction, you're going to have to come up with a more comprehensive plan. I mean, it seems to me they have a great media strategy. They don't have a great Syrian strategy. And I don't believe any of our members -- and we had both Republicans and Democrats on the committee express concern about where they think we are today and where we think the administration wants to go. They've got a lot of explaining to do to come up and say, here's our comprehensive plan on how we move forward on what is a catastrophic situation that's getting worse every single day in Syria.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you're on the oversight committee for our intelligence activities. You heard Mr. McDonough this morning. What's your takeaway on what he said today about that current situation?

ROGERS: The NSA, I assume you're talking about. And here's one of the problems that we've had, Bob, is you have the Benghazi scandal. You have the criminalization of the reporter at Fox News, and the AP dragnet, and you have IRS that clearly showed some criminal behavior that at least we know was back at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And that pattern of deception when this broke made it almost impossible for those of us who know this program, worked on this program, make sure there were no laws broke own this program, it made it very, very difficult to explain the difference to the American people. So, I hope that the administration comes forward and cooperates fully on all those investigations, that would be great. And then let's separate this one. This was very, very different. It's legal. I think it comports with the constitution. I do believe that. And I think it does protect and save American lives.

SCHIEFFER: So on these -- this so-called NSA snooping, you think at this point, you tend to believe the government's version of events on it it?

ROGERS: Well, I'm a trust but verify guy, Bob. And so I don't believe it if they just say it. It's my job as chairman with my members of my committee to do thorough investigations, to do thorough oversight, to do thorough policy review. From all that we have seen I absolutely believe -- the rhetoric you see is so misguided and it creates such the wrong perception, even on the phone records, where I think most people are upset, we take the business records via court order, and it's just phone numbers -- no names, no addresses, put it in a lock box, and if they get a foreign terrorist overseas that's dialing in to the United States, they take that phone number -- again, that one they know -- they plug it into this big pile, if you will, of just phone numbers-- it's like a phonebook without any names and any addresses in it -- to see if there's a connection, a foreign terrorist connection to the United States. When a number comes out of that lock box, Bob, it's just a phone number, no names, no addresses. And if they think that's relevant to their counter-terrorism investigation, they give that to the FBI, then the FBI has to go out and create all the legal -- meet all the legal standards to even get whose phone number that is. The one case where you can directly draw that to is Zazi, that's -- we stopped a terrorist act in New York City...

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Chairman...

ROGERS: New York City would have killed some estimate thousands of people.

SCHIEFFER: I'm terribly sorry, I'm going to have to ask you to hold that thought for just a minute. We're going to have to take a commercial break. I'll be back with a personal thought and then we hope you will stay around and join us on page two after this.

SCHIEFFER: I like people who are willing to stand up to the government. As a reporter, it's my job to do that from time to time. Some of the people I admire most in the government, men and women who led the civil rights movement -- Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr.-- they are true heroes. I'm not ready to put Edward Snowden in that category. For one thing, I don't remember Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks running off and hiding in China. The people who led the civil rights movement were willing to break the law and suffer the consequences. That's a little different than putting the nation's security at risk and running away. I know 11 people who died or lost a member of their family on 9/11. My younger daughter lived in Manhattan then. It was six hours before we knew she was safe. I'm not interested in going through that again. I don't know yet if the government is over-reached since 9/11 to reinforce our defenses, and we need to find out. What I do know, though, is that these procedures were put in place and are being overseen by officials we elected and we should hold them accountable. I think what we have in Edward Snowden is just a narcissistic young man who has decided he is smarter than the rest of us. I don't know what he is beyond that, but he is no hero. If he has a valid point -- and I'm not even sure he does -- he would greatly help his cause by voluntarily coming home to face the consequences. Back in a minute.

SCHIEFFER: Some of our stations are leaving us now. For most of you, we'll be right back with more "Face the Nation," more with chairman Mike Rogers and our all-star panel of analysts.

SCHIEFFER: And welcome back to Face the Nation. We want to go back to the house intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers. We were talking about this big story about has the National Security Agency over-reached? What is your take, Mr. Chairman? Do you think the government's done anything wrong here at this point?

ROGERS: Well, it depends again what you're talking about when you're talking about the IRS scandal or Benghazi, I think there were certainly government misdeeds and maybe even criminal behavior. When you're talking about this NSA issue, the sheer volume of oversight -- and we've gone back and reviewed every bit of it, the fact that the court ordered it, the court reviews it every 10 days, especially on the phone records. It has to reapply for the court order every 90 days, review there. Congress, both Republicans and Democrats. So if you think about people who are saying things if I believe were part of this program I wouldn't support it, that both Republicans and Democrats in the House Intelligence Committee and Senate intelligence committee would have to collude with the NSA who would also have to collude with the FBI, with the Department of Justice, with other parts of the executive branch to violate the law. I think that's improbable. And given this town and being able to keep anything secret, I don't believe that can happen. So they're not listening to Americans' phone calls. They're not reading Americans' e-mails. We have huge privacy protections put on this programs. And it does serve to target foreign persons on foreign soil who are targeting and plotting terrorist plots in the United States. And we can show that there are several dozen or more -- and we believe there are more -- that we've disrupted plots that have saved Americans' lives and also our allies in excess of 20 countries have benefited from information from these programs, again, that are clearly targeted at foreign persons living in foreign countries. And that's what's so frustrating for those of us who know the program best, I think.

SCHIEFFER: I think I just heard you say you think there was criminal activity, I take it, involving the IRS? Are you connecting that to the White House? Have you found a connection there yet?

ROGERS: No. What I'm saying is the White House themselves have admitted that people in the White House knew about this behavior, and I think that investigation is still ongoing. Clearly, when the government in any way, shape, or form uses its power to intimidate citizens who are donating to whatever their political belief -- Republican or Democrat-- that's a criminal activity. And the fact that initially was said it wasn't at the White House, and later said, well, people did know at the White House, so it's clearly gotten to the front steps. And I think the investigation needs to be conducted thoroughly to make sure who knew what when, who provided the orders, what kind of a relationship and what kind of judgment and what kind of instructions were given to the individuals who did visit the White House from the IRS, who also had a connection with the program that specifically targeted people for their political beliefs.

SCHIEFFER: But you're not saying...

ROGERS: That raises the hair on the back of my neck. I hope it raises the hair on the back of your neck as well.

SCHIEFFER: Yeah, but you're not saying in the this point you think this is directed out of the White House?

ROGERS: No. I'm just saying that the White House themselves had said that it was -- they were aware of the program at the White House. That was their own admission. I think that to me, though, the activity of which the IRS engaged in I believe crosses the line into criminal activity. Now we're just going to have to figure out where does that end? Who knows what? Who knew what when? You cannot allow -- and this is an institution that does not have checks and balances like we do in our national security apparatus. They have almost no checks and balances and have unbelievable powers to intrude into your lives, and are you proven guilty before innocent when it comes to taxes. That is very, very, very concerning. And again I think that mistrust that served to erode the public's mistrust in the government and the administration and it got dragged into a national security program. So, I'm hoping that we can separate these and that the administration now stands up and says we're going to fully cooperate in all of those investigations to make sure the American public gets the answers they deserve and if people violating the law they should be prosecuted for violating the law.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Mr. Chairman, we want to thank you very much for joining us this morning. And we want to go now to our all-star panel as we say. They've actually been on the -- Barton Gellman, who is with us. He is the one who broke this story in the "Washington Post" about this so-called snooping by the NSA. He has written about it extensively, including in today's paper. Rick Stengel, managing editor of "Time" magazine, has a fascinating cover story on the leaks this week. He is also just back from Iran. We sure want to talk to him about that. And on the other side, two columnists who have had no shortage of material to analyze and write about. Our friend Peggy Noonan who writes for the "Wall Street Journal," and our friend David Corn who writes for "Mother Jones." Bart, I'm going to -- you're the reporter of the hour here. If I'm sitting there reading this, as-- well, just as me, what should I take away from these revelations that you have brought out this week? What's important here?


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