CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript: Syria


Date: Nov. 6, 2014


Let's talk about all of the breaking news, and there's lots of it, with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan.

Congressman, Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.

I want to get through all of these points, so we've got a lot to discuss.

Let's talk about first this French bomb maker who works with ISIS, David Drugeon, as he's called.

Can you confirm he was the target of a U.S. Airstrike and is now dead?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We don't have confirmation yet. I can tell you that the United States has targeted al Qaeda elements operating in Syria, as well as ISIS organizations that operate in Syria, as well.

BLITZER: Is he a big deal, this guy?

ROGERS: He is a big deal. He's, you know, he is part of this infrastructure that al Qaeda has built. And, you know, we get caught up in calling them the Khorasan group. It's really important to understand that these are senior veteran al Qaeda affiliate members that are in Syria at the behest of Zawahiri, the leader of al Qaeda. And, you know, I think to say that they're separate and distinct is probably not accurate. This is just a pretty large, well structured cell of al Qaeda.

So they're operating and we're operating in Syria. This individual is important because he was bringing and trying to foster the technology that we know existed in other parts of al Qaeda affiliates, mainly al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We know that they were having at least discussions about sharing technology that is -- that was really, really very concerning. And I think this was an important step to try to continue to disrupt and dismantle al Qaeda's ability to launch an attack on the West.

BLITZER: And you don't have a problem with the president's decision to go ahead and continue and to escalate these targeted killings or assassinations of al Qaeda and other terrorists?

ROGERS: This is a group that is an enemy combatant of the United States. They've declared war on the United States. They have authorized -- I believe the president has authorizations on al Qaeda still in standing, authorized by Congress. They have -- you know, just because we've got some of their leadership doesn't mean they've gone away. This is still a viable organization that is constructing itself surreptitiously in places that are not governed space to plan and finance and train for operations against the West, including the United States of America.

So I believe the president is on solid ground in continuing to dis -- to engage and disrupt these activities, Wolf.

BLITZER: And very quickly before we have to take a commercial break and continue this conversation, you heard Nick Paton Walsh -- he's there on the border between Turkey and Syria -- say one of the latest U.S. Strikes hit a building where there were Syrian rebels, but that some Syrian moderates who oppose the regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus, they were killed in this strike.

Have you heard that?

ROGERS: I haven't seen any battle damage assessment that would indicate that there was any strike on moderates in Syria. And certainly we'll go over that data.

I would just be cautious that there are al-Sham interests in Syria who are working closely with both Al-Nusra and others who are a proclaimed al Qaeda affiliate and interested in engaging attacks against the West. BLITZER: So Al-Nusra is a terrorist organization. Obviously, ISIS is. Al Qaeda is. This other group, Al-Sham, is that formally considered a terrorist organization linked to al Qaeda?

ROGERS: There are elements of a group that identifies itself as Al- Sham that has been in association with al Qaeda affiliates. We know that much.

BLITZER: All right.

I want you to stand by, Mr. Chairman.

We have a lot more to talk about, including this letter that the president of the United States wrote to the Supreme Leader of Iran.

What's going on?

Stay with us.

More on the breaking news right after this.


BLITZER: We've got more breaking news. ABC News now reporting a destructive what they call Trojan horse malware program has penetrated the software that runs much of the nation's critical infrastructure and is poised to cause what ABC News is calling "an economic catastrophe." They're citing the Department of Homeland Security. They're saying this malware was inserted by hackers believed to be sponsored by the Russian government. It represents a very serious threat.

Let's bring back the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Mike Rogers.

What do you make of this report, Mr. Chairman?

ROGERS: Well, unfortunately, it's not surprising that a nation state has been working to insert malware both on critical infrastructure around the country, including financial networks and other things. I can't talk about the specifics of any case that you just mentioned. But let me -- this is something we need to understand.

The Russians, the Chinese, we have seen activities from the Iranians, who are using cyber to try to conduct both destructive and espionage- type cyber attacks. And the threat is real and it's serious. And unfortunately, the government hasn't configured itself quite yet to deal with this threat.

There is a report that came out maybe about 18 months ago by a company called Mandiant, which -- who has now changed. But that company put out a public report that showed that the nation state of China had successfully penetrated some of our critical infrastructure.

And so if China, who has -- doesn't have the same capability as Russia does when it comes to cyber, you can bet that these other nation states are going to find their way into these systems, which is why those of us, like me, have been saying we are going to have to deal with this in a real and meaningful way, including allowing the government to share information with our private sector so they can protect their own networks.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on this breaking news coming up. It's obviously a very, very disturbing development.

But I want to get your thoughts on this -- these reports -- and we have confirmed them -- that the president of the United States has now written a leader directly to the Supreme Leader, Khamenei of Iran, seeking some cooperation.

What do you make of this?

ROGERS: Well, the administration certainly hasn't confirmed it, but they haven't denied it either. And so I think what has happened now is the administration is working their way up. They've improved themselves to a confusing policy in Syria and Iraq.

I have to tell you, this is really dangerous things that they are participating in, in this sense. We have now got a Sunni-led nation, Arab League partnership that's real and it's concrete and it's getting some depth like I haven't seen in years. These are exactly the kinds of things that undermine our allies and friends at the time we don't need it.

So Iran is -- think about where Iran is today. There are bad actors in Yemen, Bahrain. There are bad actors in Iraq. They have U.S. soldiers' blood on their hands during the time that we were in Iraq and the Department of Defense certainly confirms that.

This is not -- this is not a nation state you want to get in bed with. If you do that, somebody is not going to get a good night's sleep.

This is dangerous stuff that they're doing. And I -- I hope that the administration reconsiders.

I argue it's almost reckless. The enemy of our enemy isn't necessarily our friend, certainly in this case.

BLITZER: So you're worried about this potential deal that the United States, the permanent members of the Security Council, Germany. They're trying to work out a deal to restrict or at least limit Iran's nuclear weapons, if they have a nuclear weapons program, their nuclear program in general.

Are you encouraged that they're -- they might get a deal?

Are you worried about this?

What's your assessment?

ROGERS: Well, again, they started those negotiations in secret, which caused real strains with our Arab League partners and Israel, as well, because, again, remember, our biggest fear -- the whole reason we set up sanctions -- and the president wasn't for that, but he came along, thankfully. The whole reason that bipartisan effort to put sanctions on Iran to stop their development of a nuclear weapon is because if they get it, it triggers a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, because Sunni nations are not going to stand for Iran, a Shia nation, having a nuclear weapon given their bad actors, you know, how aggressive they are with their Sunni-led Force, their intelligence sources in and around the region, causing bad things to happen. They're still very aggressive in doing that.

So when you're living in that neighborhood, you see a bad actor doing bad things in the community and the United States rewarding them for it. This is why we're having a hard time understanding the administration's position on this. They're going to have to, A, come to Congress and try to clarify this, I think, as soon as they can, number one.

And number two, this December 24th date is important. The last meeting, what they did is they gave Iran cash and gifts so that they could continue to negotiate. We got nothing for it.

And so when you see that kind of pattern of negotiating, you start to believe that maybe they just want a deal and they don't want to get the deal right.

BLITZER: All right.

ROGERS: And that's what I'm concerned about.

BLITZER: When you say cash, you mean an easing of the sanctions and they made some money as a result of the easing of the sanctions (INAUDIBLE)...

ROGERS: And they freed up billions of dollars in cash for them. So -- and that's the one thing that they needed more than anything.


All right, Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.

ROGERS: Thanks, Wolf.