Interview with House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers

Interview with House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers

By The Situation Room - September 12, 2012

BLITZER: The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Mike Rogers, is standing by. He's got -- he's been fully briefed on what's going on. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.

ROGERS: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Based on what you have been told and all the information you have what you can share with our viewers here in the United States and around the world, first of all, who did this? Who killed these four Americans?

REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: The actual identity we're still working through the final details of exactly. I think we're getting close to being able to identify the group that is responsible for this. But it is -- it was clearly a coordinated attack, a well-coordinated attack, I might add, that was specifically planned to do and accomplish what you saw unfortunately unfold in Benghazi.

BLITZER: Was it an al Qaeda-led or inspired operation?

ROGERS: You can tell by the signature there in the -- you know, for months we've seen al Qaeda in the Maghreb looking for western targets. That was all across Northern Africa. We have seen certain activities that certainly lead you to believe today that it is an al Qaeda affiliated group.

There are still some fuzzy details that I think we'll have resolved within the next few days to have a for sure and for certain. But clearly, it has all the hallmark of an al Qaeda-style event.

BLITZER: Was there any chatter as they say or any indication that something like this was about to happen at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi?

ROGERS: You know, we didn't get the warning you would hope to get in an event like this, so we could have prevented the loss of life, and you know, with a horrible tragedy for losing a U.S. ambassador Mr. Stevens. We think that we'll be able to go back and take a look. Again, we're going to rescrub all of that.

That's what unfortunately we'll need to do to make sure that we didn't miss anything. But I don't believe so. I don't believe there was some smoking gun that was missed leading up to this. And there wasn't that kind of chatter that would lead you to believe that this event was happening on this day with this specific target.

I didn't see anything like that. I don't think our intelligence services have. But we're going back to make that scrub to make sure we understand fully what the picture was leading up to the event and subsequent to the event.

BLITZER: Because it does look at least based on everything I've heard as a pretty sophisticated assassination effort to kill the United States ambassador. So, here's the question, was it time to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11? ROGERS: I'm an old FBI guy, Wolf. And I got to tell you, I don't believe a lot of coincidences all in the same day. So, it certainly looks that way to me. There are differences of opinion as we stand here today. Remember, we're going to have more details. This story will take -- we'll understand all the pieces to this puzzle within days of the event.

But right now, it certainly appears to me that the significance of this date was important. We knew that al Qaeda for years had a fixation on the 9/11 date since the original attack on the United States. So, it wouldn't be implausible to think that they could plan an event. And by the way, an event like this just doesn't come together.

It's not something throw together in a day and say we're going out and do this. This was a very well-sophisticated coordinated event. I got to believe that this was timed to happen on this date, but we don't know that for sure as of today. That's just Mike Rogers looking at what we know from history and what the facts I've seen making that conclusion.

BLITZER: What we're hearing, Mr. Chairman, is that some of the protesters who showed up at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi were upset by this anti-Muslim film that's now out there on the internet. But that this actual killing mission, this assassination attempt and successful assassination plot had nothing to do with this anti-Muslim film.

ROGERS: And I believe that's right. And I would be also careful even on the Egyptian portion of this. That film played a role, but we're not exactly sure if this wasn't an information operation. Remember, in Cairo, there had been protests for some time at that particular place.

There certainly were some extremist groups that we knew were participating and organizing and stirring up those protests. What we saw from the cartoon incident is that when they were published, the violence wasn't really conducted for months after that. And it was because of this information operations conducted by extremist groups to try to use that as a vehicle to get people to conduct acts of violence.

We don't know for sure yet today, Wolf. But I'm highly suspect of the timing of certain issues, questions we don't have answered, and the fact that there may have been an information operation designed around filtering into these protest groups to attack the embassy on that particular day.

Again, we're going to know more in the days ahead. But I would be a little bit -- I would be a little bit hesitant to say it was all because of this particular video that this happened. I think there's a lot more questions we need answered before I'd come to that conclusion.

BLITZER: Yes. And you don't believe in coincidences as a former FBI agent. I don't believe in coincidences necessarily either. So, here's the question, the attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo coming on the anniversary of 9/11, the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi coming on the anniversary of 9/11, is there any connection between these two attacks?

ROGERS: As of today, I can tell you of no connection between those two events. But, again, something could change. Here's the other part of this. Remember, there's encouragement for these franchises of al Qaeda around the world to conduct operations. So, they may get a general, you know, opportunistic command of, hey, on this day, we would like you to do something.

And then, they would take their internal planning from there. So, you can say in some cases that there may have been a general belief that that day was important and they should coordinate any attacks on that particular day without the Egyptian faction and the Libyan faction even knowing either one.

So, there's a lot of areas for confusion here if you're looking at it from the outside. At the same time, there may have been. We just haven't seen it yet.

BLITZER: We're out of time, Mr. Chairman. One quick final question, what does it say to you that the president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, issues a statement but does not condemn the attack on the U.S. embassy in Egypt?

And I raise the question because the U.S., as you well know, provides Egypt with about $1.5 billion, with a B, billion dollars a year in various forms of military and economic assistance.

ROGERS: Well, we're going to have to ask some really hard questions. Remember, this new Muslim Brotherhood-led government violated the treaty really with Israel by putting tanks and heavy armament into the Sinai. They've made pretty sweeping damaging statements to that relationship and made other concrete decisions.

Why wasn't the external security force better prepared and doing more to keep those folks off the wall on our embassy in Cairo? We're going to have to lay on the table some very hard talking points, one of which is the aid that we give to Egypt. Now, I wouldn't rush to take it away.

But we certainly need to make conditional changes here in our relationship with this new Egyptian government if we're going to have a relationship that wants to move forward and doesn't want to degrade and devolve into what could be at least soft on jihadists who are starting to believe that they have the opportunity of to freedom to do acts in places like Egypt and around the world.

BLITZER: Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.

ROGERS: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me. 

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