Interview with House Intel Chairman Mike Rogers

Interview with House Intel Chairman Mike Rogers

By The Situation Room - May 5, 2011

BLITZER: U.S. officials are learning more by the hour about the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, and so are we. We're told intelligence agencies are aggressively poring over electronics and other evidence seized by Navy SEALs and that they've already gotten valuable information.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill: Congressman Mike Rogers. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

You are one of the handful of members of the House and Senate who've actually seen this photo of bin Laden's body. Could you describe it to us?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Well, I'm a former FBI agent. So, if you've ever seen a crime scene photo, and there's certainly a lot of those out there, it is a victim with a shot to the head. And it can be distorting to the shape of the head and the face, but it is clearly bin Laden. But it's pretty gruesome.

BLITZER: But you can clearly, you know, we've all seen pictures of bin Laden over the years. If you see it, you know for sure, just based on the appearance of the face, that this is Osama bin Laden?

ROGERS: So, I mean, obviously, there is some swelling and whatnot that goes with a gunshot wound to the head. But the features are clearly identifiable as Osama bin Laden.

BLITZER: Would you describe it as gruesome, gory?

ROGERS: Sure, it's gruesome. It's a high-caliber gunshot wound to the head. Pretty gruesome stuff.

And my whole thing on this, Wolf, has been, you know, we have to ask ourselves a question, and I -- as a matter of fact, I talked to a soldier yesterday who was there during the Abu Ghraib incident when they leased the photos, and he was recalling about how they had to get their medical packs doubled up, they had to redouble their patrols, all of this because they expected so much violence. And once the pitchers hit -- sure enough, a huge spike in violence.

So, my argument was: does releasing this photo help or make our soldiers more safe or less safe? And, at the end of the day, I came to the conclusion this is not something we should be doing. His family says he's dead. The DNA says he is dead. That photo I looked at surely says he's dead.

And it's time to move on. I mean, I just think that we're going to do more harm than good and I wouldn't lose the life of one soldier because some conspiratorial theorist person out there doesn't believe it until they release a photo that they're not going to believe in anyway.

BLITZER: So, you agree with President Obama's decision not to release it?

ROGERS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BLITZER: How worried should we be or how worried should the U.S. government be that it could be leaked? ROGERS: Boy, if that were leaked -- it is so closely held. I'd be surprised if it were leak and I'd be the first one to try to find that individually personally to deliver (INAUDIBLE). That would not be helpful of the U.S. national security interests.

I feel pretty comfortable that it will not be leaked and will be never be out of the custody of a very few people.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the intelligence, the information that was gathered at bin Laden's compound in Pakistan and brought back to the United States -- the computer disk, the hard drives, thumb drives, the documents. As far as you know right now, is any of that information resulted in what's called actionable intelligence on a potential terror attack?

ROGERS: Well, you have to remember, some of it is encrypted. You have -- some of it is -- the language issue is a problem. So, it's going to take a little longer than people think. We have to sort through all of those issues and then they'll have a series of things that they want to look at first.

So, the number one priority is exactly that. Is there something in there that says we can either: (a), go get bad guy, (a), or (b) is there a threat to the homeland that we need to disrupt right now? So, they are going through that process even as we speak. It will take a little longer than we think, but I think this is going to be incredibly valuable.

I'll tell you why -- think about how we caught bin Laden. A nickname out of an interrogation five years ago and a constant investigation and widening what we know to finally get Osama bin Laden, we're likely to get more than just a nickname in some of this information that I think is going to be incredibly valuable.

BLITZER: But so far, have you gotten that -- any kind of really new, credible, important information based on what you know?

ROGERS: I can say that it's going to be good day for -- on the terrorism -- global war on terrorism in the months ahead.

BLITZER: So, I'll take that as a yes. There's really great stuff in there that will help the U.S. fight terrorists?

ROGERS: Well, I believe it will be and I would argue, now is the time to step on the gas. You know, we've spent a lot of time on Osama bin Laden, more than a savage terrorist deserves -

****30 ROGERS: Well, I believe it will be, and I would argue now is the time to step on the gas.

You know, we've spent a lot of time on Osama bin Laden, more than a savage terrorist deserves. And this organization is going to try to change. We know their pattern. They immediately are trying to change couriers, change the way they operate. They are going to instigate all across their network security protocols that they have developed that keeps them from getting caught.

So all of that is going on right now. And it's going to be an interesting and challenging time for our intelligence services to keep up with those changes.

And, of course, one of the things we were definitely afraid of here in the UBL case was that if he did get out, or he did -- it was leaked and did he escape, it would be another 10 years, given his security protocols, before we could catch him. And that was certainly our concern then, and that's kind of the thing we are looking at now with the network.

BLITZER: All right. I've got a few questions. Give me a quick answer.

Any closer to finding Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two?

ROGERS: We have lots of information on him. I do believe that -- I can't say it's imminent, but I do believe we're hot on the trail.

BLITZER: In Pakistan?

ROGERS: I do believe we are hot on the trail. Wolf, you're good.

BLITZER: I suspect --

ROGERS: I look really bad in one of those orange suits with the numbers on the back. It doesn't do anything for me.

BLITZER: No, I don't want you to release anything that could compromise that search.

The phone numbers that were sewn on his garment, and the 500 euros that were sewn in, what did that say to you?

ROGERS: Well, I can't talk about that specifically, but I will tell you this -- is that it is a common thing that we have found both in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places where we do these kind of raids. And by the way, the raid that you saw happens two or three times a night at the height of Iraq and will build up to that tempo, I do believe, in Afghanistan, really an amazing capability for us.

And I think America got a better glimpse of it on this particular one. But it happens all the time.

And what they would find when they would go into those houses and capture those folks is that they had gear ready to go for quick escape. So they were trained to travel light and to travel with just enough things that they needed to get to the next place to get away to escape. And that's clearly what we found in the UBL compound.

BLITZER: And what were those two phone numbers?

ROGERS: I can't specifically say what we found on his person.

BLITZER: Hey, Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck. I know you guys are working really hard in the aftermath of the death of bin Laden.

Appreciate it very much.

ROGERS: Hey, thanks, Wolf. Thanks for your interest.


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