Interview with House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers

Interview with House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers

By The Situation Room - December 19, 2012

BOLDUAN: The independent review of the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya found systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels, within two bureaus of the State Department.

But the review also noted that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks.

We're joined now by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

So you've gone through this report, the classified, the declassified version. What's your reaction?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The -- well, a couple of concern. One of the concerns I have is, well, first of all, it certainly verified all that we had found, and we had talked about for weeks, of really what is gross negligence on behalf of the security directorates in the State Department to protect the employees.

BLITZER: Your diplomatic security?

ROGERS: Clearly that one. And there -- according to this report, there are other departments that were involved, I think, in that negligence. That's clear to me in the report.

BLITZER: Because you told us the other day, gross negligence. Those were the words you used.

ROGERS: Well, the one thing that concerned me is that the report said that we found all of those problems, but we find no one to have disciplinary action toward. That's concerning to me. That protects this culture. They blamed it on their bureaucracy. So if everybody is responsible, nobody is responsible. That's a huge problem. This was a catastrophic failure.

BLITZER: Because the report does say, security posture at that diplomatic mission, security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.

All right, so three officials have resigned. No one is being charged with anything, dereliction of duty or anything along those lines. Is that enough?

ROGERS: Candidly, I don't think so. This was either a culture of failure here or it was worse than that, and you had people who were grossly negligent in their performance of their duties that led to the deaths of four Americans.

My argument is, if you don't change that and change that soon, we are going to have more problems. And I'll give you a great example. In the report, one of the recommendations is, well, if you don't have specific threat information, you should consider the totality of the threat information. That is about as basic as you get. That happens every day, all across the world, from the Secret Service taking the president to a site in the United States to the -- it should happen at a diplomatic security site in the embassy. When you take all of the threat information and figure out what your security posture should be.

If they had to make that recommendation in this report, think about how bad it must have been. All this information, people making affirmative decisions not to beef up the security, not to take into consideration all of the threat information, including the items they listed in the unclassified report, that were serious enough to ramp up the security. That's really concerning.

And if you don't find anyone to blame, you don't find anyone to hold accountable with the accountability board, that tells me you're going to have more of that culture happening, and we put at risk, I think, our folks overseas.

BOLDUAN: It raises so many questions. And there is quite a bit of an outrage factor here when you think about it. How did it get so bad?

I mean, look at another example of, it doesn't even compare to this. I mean, the GSA, they found that they had -- there were lots of wasteful spending for big galas in Las Vegas for employees. People were fired for that.

But four people are dead. Of course, the terror -- no one was asking for the terrorist attack to happen on September 11, but four people are dead. Why isn't someone getting fired for this?

ROGERS: And I think that is the question we have to get answered. The fact that this report was so tepid in saying, "Well, we find all these really harsh mistakes" -- and they laid them out in the report -- "but we don't find anyone to hold accountable." That's wrong, and that will only serve to, I think, protect the bureaucracy in what they've been -- in the performance of their duties. They need to shake that up.

If you have a security department that doesn't understand to take into consideration threat information, you probably should get a new security department.

BLITZER: If you read carefully the unclassified version of the report, as I did, they do seem to say the ambassador, Chris Stevens, he was partially responsible for this disaster. I'll read you a few lines.

"The board found that Ambassador Stevens made the decision to travel to Benghazi, independently of Washington, per standard -- standard practice. The ambassador did not see a direct threat of an attack of this nature and scale on the U.S. mission in the overall negative trend-line of security incidents from spring to summer 2012. His status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy and his expertise on Benghazi in particular caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments."

So he's passed away. He was killed. Three of his associates were killed. But they seem to be suggesting he bears some of that responsibility.

ROGERS: Well, clearly, he bears some responsibility. But also, they say in the report that the Benghazi folks were begging for help along the way. They explained a deteriorating security posture. There were more intensity in the events. More bad guys in the neighborhood than ever before. And they were asking repeatedly. And in Washington, they were turned down for those requests. That's an important difference.

So are there more than one person at fault? I'm sure there are. But you can't have a security wing of the State Department that does not recognize that all of these threats need to be taken into consideration.

He went with the security posture that they gave him, which I argue was woefully inadequate.

BOLDUAN: Is there not a way to find out where the paperwork got stuck, in terms of these requests keep going in, these requests keep coming in. I mean, isn't that a question you want an answer to?

Absolutely. And the fact that I don't think the accountability review board that did the report can find that they can't find anybody to hold accountable for the death of these four Americans when there are some serious, gross negligent mistakes made in the security posture.

BLITZER: Here's what I want to know, and I think our viewers want to know. So there will be bureaucratic responsibility in all of this. The guys who actually, the terrorists, the al Qaeda-related terrorists who killed Ambassador Stevens and the three others, where are they? Who are they? Is there a hunt -- is there any progress being made to bring these individuals, these terrorists to justice?

ROGERS: Well, a great question. I had the same question. Brought those folks responsible for the -- the intelligence gathering investigation of that particular front. And as I said in a statement today, I am not happy with where we're at. We're not in the right posture. I don't think we have the right configuration. And we are not in a position right now...

BLITZER: Do you have any names...

ROGERS: ... to bring those to justice.

BLITZER: Do they have any names of individuals?

ROGERS: They're -- they're starting -- it's starting to come together. But it is, A, very slow. We're getting reports from people who are in that business that tell us it's going far too slow, and they can't figure out why it's going to slow. And that's my frustration.

BLITZER: Are the Libyans being helpful or hurtful?

ROGERS: No, they're -- they're -- they're not being completely helpful, and that certainly is an impediment to -- to the speed of this. But we have other means and other ways of collection. And that's why I'm saying, we're not exactly postured, in my mind, in the right way with the right resources to get to a swift action on catching these people and bringing them to justice.

If you recall the 9/11 Commission Report on the USS Cole, one of the reasons that they blamed al Qaeda's emboldenness to do the 9/11 attack was because -- they thought that nothing happened after the USS Cole. It took too long to try to bring someone to justice.

They felt that that empowered them.


ROGERS: Well, you're going to have that same attitude -- as a matter of fact, we know it is. One of the folks that they believe, at least public reports have shown was involved, a guy named Katella (ph), who was in the public square drinking, you know, a strawberry frappe and thumbing his nose at the United States.

That attitude will bring violence and trouble to the United States, if we don't bring those responsible to justice soon. And we're not there yet.

BLITZER: But do you think -- and we've got to go -- there's a mindset that, if they find out who did it, that the Navy SEALS will go out there and do what they did to bin Laden?

ROGERS: I don't want to say what capability we will use. We have certain capabilities that the United States has that, uh, I think would serve well to bring those to justice that -- that killed and took the lives.

BLITZER: You say bring those to justice, just kill them?

ROGERS: Well, I think there's options on the table. I think that they need to be brought to some sort of justice and that it needs to be swift and certain to remind those folks that we will not tolerate that kind of violence toward any U.S. unofficial anywhere in the world.

BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, thanks for coming in.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, sir.

ROGERS: Thanks for having us. 

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