Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

By The Situation Room - November 13, 2012

BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. She's the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: We've spoken on many occasions. I am tempted to throw my hands in the air and simply ask you, what is going on right now? We're waking up every morning to these new revelations. I have been around Washington a long time, you have as well. They're pretty shocking.

Just give us your immediate gut. What is going on?

FEINSTEIN: Well, my immediate gut is like this is "The National Enquirer". I mean, every day, there is something new, and that really does not affect what we're doing. It may add to it somewhat, but what the intelligence committee will begin tomorrow is an inquiry into the Benghazi episode. And we will have Mr. Morell, Mr. Olsen of the Counterterrorism Center, as well as the number two of the FBI, Sean Joyce.

And in that way, we will be able to cover that. It's also my intention -- this has not yet been announced -- to talk with General Petraeus, Director Petraeus. This ties into his trip that he made just before all of this broke to some Middle Eastern countries, including Libya. This afternoon, I'll be meeting with the ranking member, our vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss. We will go over the plan for this. We will both meet with Mr. Morell, and then we will proceed.

BLITZER: Mike Morell is now the acting director of the CIA. Do you have indications from General Petraeus, even though he has resigned, he will come forward and testify about the Benghazi affair before your committee?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I believe he will. I think he's a responsible person, and I believe he will come.

And so we are going to try to set that up today because his view as someone who was actually there -- now, this is according to Mr. Woodward -- who was actually in Benghazi, who actually spoke to people who went through the incident, I think that's important for us to hear.

BLITZER: He was there.

So let's talk a little bit now about -- I guess the only way to describe these scandals that are going on, there's a scandal involving General Petraeus, now General Allen, the leader of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, the NATO commander there, he's involved apparently as well.

What can you tell us about, first of all, General Allen's role in what's going on right now?

FEINSTEIN: Well, this is all news to me, too. In the very late spring of this year, the four corners of our two committees, House and Senate, the leadership, met with General Allen in Kabul. We were very impressed with him. He gave a historic narrative of the area which was impressive. He talked about his mission, how it was going, and I think the four of us came away with a sense that he is, in fact, a fine commander.

I don't know exactly what the situation is here. We will look at it, we will ask for a report, we will gather the materials, we will ask to see classified documents that may have been on Ms. Broadwell's -- that's another -- Ms. Broadwell's computer.

I spoke to the attorney general about that last night. He agreed to present this to the intelligence committee. So we will have those, which is important to our mission because our mission is to see, was intelligence what it should have been? Should we have known this was a terrorist attack, much quicker than 10 days after the attack?

And my answer to that, just on my review of facts, is, yes, absolutely. So we want to hear testimony on that.

If we have had an intelligence deficit, one thing or another, our oversight responsibilities call us to take actions in intelligence authorization bills or elsewhere to see that this area of the world is beefed up intelligence-wise. This can't be allowed to happen again.

BLITZER: Have you been briefed on the nature of the relationship between General Allen and this woman in Tampa, Jill Kelley? Apparently, there were thousands of pages of documents that were e- mailed from General Allen to this woman that we don't know much about. As chair of the Intelligence Committee, what have you been told?

FEINSTEIN: I have not been told very much, that's for sure, and I'll be asking a lot of questions. I know that -- her name has come into question, let me put it that way. I have no factual information whatsoever. People have mentioned that to me in the course of a conversation. That's all.

BLITZER: Do you have any reason to believe classified information was sent from General Allen to this woman, Jill Kelley?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'll tell you this -- knowing a little bit about General Allen, I would be doubtful it had been, just as I would be doubtful it had been from General Petraeus. And essentially, I believe it has been confirmed that no classified information was given by Director Petraeus to Paula Broadwell. I would expect to find the same thing with respect to General Allen. I would be very shocked and surprised if that was not the case.

BLITZER: Which raises this question, Senator, why did the FBI go back to Paula Broadwell's home yesterday, last night, spend five hours there, and take out box after box after box of documents, computer equipment, and other material?

FEINSTEIN: Well, that would indicate to me they're still looking for something. I don't happen to know what that something is. BLITZER: Do you have any reason to believe she still had security clearances? I know when she was active duty in the U.S. Army, she says -- she says publicly she had what's called not only top secret but SCI, Secure Compartmented Information, clearances. Do you have any reason to believe she still had those clearances?

FEINSTEIN: I do not.

BLITZER: And if, in fact, she did get classified information from General Petraeus, that would be violation of the law, I assume?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm not going to go there because I don't know that to be the case. Look, this is a man of substantial integrity and credibility, and I think the last thing he would do would be that.


BLITZER: So why wasn't President Obama informed of all of this sooner. That and more with my interview with the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein. That's next.


BLITZER: More now on my interview with the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. I asked Senator Dianne Feinstein why top lawmakers, let alone the president of the United States, weren't told of General Petraeus' scandal sooner.


BLITZER: You know what? It's shocking to me that you and Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, that both you and your staffs learned about all of this when you got inquiries from the news media. And I say to myself, what is going on here, Senator? And I'm pretty surprised by that as well. I assume you're shocked by that.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm shocked by it because the process and the procedure has been to brief the four corners of the committee, both House and Senate, with respect to covert operations taking place. They don't share it with the whole committee, but they do share that data with the four of us, and that has never been violated. So there's no reason not to have trust here.

And it's rather shocking to find out candidly that we weren't briefed and that we find out from the press in the way in which we did with no heads up, with no opportunity to ask questions or put together any information. So we have been coming from behind on this. That's true for the House committee. It's true for our committee.

BLITZER: I don't know what's more shocking, that you weren't briefed, that Representative Rogers wasn't briefed, or the president of the United States wasn't even told about what's going on apparently until the very end. Why would they keep him in the dark?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't know. I have many questions about the nature of the FBI investigation, how it was instituted. And we'll be asking those questions.

BLITZER: Do you know anything about this FBI agent in Tampa who was apparently involved as a friend of Jill Kelley, this other woman in Tampa, in raising questions about the nature of some of the e-mails from Paula Broadwell to Jill Kelley that the FBI later discovered?

FEINSTEIN: I obviously do know things that I've picked up. I'm not going to discuss them here. I'll discuss them in a classified setting.

BLITZER: Is it your understanding that this FBI agent, and obviously you can't release classified information, was the source of the -- the whistleblower source who called this Republican congressman from Washington state to alert him to what was going on, who in turn told Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader about what was going on, who in turn went to the Justice Department and the FBI and I suspect as a result of that inquiry, this whole thing exploded.

FEINSTEIN: Well, that's your assessment. At this stage, I'm not going to disagree with it.

BLITZER: Because that seems to be everyone was trying to keep it quiet until all of a sudden Eric Cantor got involved and raised the issue near the end of October, just before the election.

Apparently this disgruntled FBI whistleblower was unhappy they would end it without charges filed, without national security violations alleged, and as a result this has come to where it is right now.

But that's just my gut instinct, knowing what I know, but you're telling me you don't necessarily disagree with me.

FEINSTEIN: Well, look, I'm trying to be helpful in getting a cyber security bill through. I happen to believe our cyber intrusion is tremendous and that the FBI needs all -- has to do all it can to stop cyber intrusions in this country.

We are trying to pass a bill. It is going to come up again. To me, that's the huge issue in which the FBI should be involved. As I understand it, Mrs. Kelley happened to know an FBI agent and that's how she started or the FBI agent started this investigation.

There are thousands of these out there. Why this one was selected, I have no idea. There are a lot of questions, Wolf, that have to be answered and how the investigation was conducted, its secrecy.

I understand protecting people. I don't understand doing it all under a cloud of secrecy, even people with responsibilities are not even notified so they can ask questions about its propriety.

BLITZER: Two final questions and then I'll let you go, Senator, politics, is politics involved in all of this based on what you've heard and seen?

FEINSTEIN: I haven't seen any of it so far.

BLITZER: No politics involved.

FEINSTEIN: No, I haven't seen it. I haven't seen it.

BLITZER: Any connection to the Benghazi killings involved and resignation of General Petraeus and now what's come up with General Allen, do you see any connection at all between Benghazi and these affairs, if you will?

FEINSTEIN: I've seen no connection whatsoever.

BLITZER: But you're going to be investigating and your committee is going ahead with formal inquiries?

FEINSTEIN: That's why candidly we know that General Petraeus was at Benghazi, according to Bob Woodward. We know according to Bob Woodward that he talked to certain people.

I want to see if that's true or not. There's only one way to ascertain that, and that is to talk directly with Director Petraeus and do it in a classified setting with the committee present.

BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, good luck with your hearings. Good luck with what's going on, as I say. You know, I started this interview by throwing my hands up in the air saying what is going on, and I suspect there's a lot still that remains to be discovered.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you very much. 

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