CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript: Paying Ransoms


Date: Dec. 7, 2014
Issues: Foreign Affairs


CROWLEY: Now we to want go to the tragic outcome of a rescue attempt of two hostages in Yemen.

U.S. Navy SEALs trekked six miles inland toward an al Qaeda compound, but were discovered within 100 yards of that compound. In the firefight that ensued, officials say the hostages, American journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie, were shot by a militant. They both died.

I'm joined by the outgoing chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers.

Congressman, thanks for being here.


CROWLEY: Tell us what you know about this mission.

ROGERS: Well, obviously, these are very, very difficult undertakings.

Sometimes, we get numb to the fact that they're successful that they must be easier or we must be so good that no mistake can happen. This was a part of a series of events. This was the second. Information was obviously good. The intelligence was good.

Unfortunately, in something like this, they do try to prevent that, that -- they being the terrorists that are holding these hostages are trying to set up a perimeter to stop it. And, unfortunately, that's what they ran into on the way in.

CROWLEY: So, in the first attempt, we know they went and did not find Luke Somers. That's who they were looking for. But they used information from that first attempt to find him a second time.

ROGERS: That's right.

CROWLEY: What does this tell you about al Qaeda and whether there's been any kind of transformation in their thinking?

They have not been, as ISIS has been, beheading U.S. citizens or otherwise murdering, not just U.S., but British citizens as well. What does it -- does this tell you that they're moving more toward what ISIS is doing?

ROGERS: No, not necessarily.

If you remember, AQIM, the al Qaeda in the Maghreb, Northern Africa, has been taking hostages, ransoming hostages and has been the single largest -- up to about 2012 -- contributor to al Qaeda in cash payments, meaning people were cooperating, paying the ransom.

When it didn't happen, they do execute their hostages. And so, we need to understand that this isn't something new. I think the sheer terror of the way that ISIS does it, by beheading, certainly has gotten into the conscience of America.

But they have been engaged in this practice for a very long time, al Qaeda, as well as ISIS tactics.


ROGERS: So, what we know is, they're still trying to ransom, and I think this should reengage the debate about paying ransoms. When you pay ransom, you get more kidnappings.

That's certainly what we saw across Africa. We're certainly seeing it in Yemen as well.

CROWLEY: Sure. But we also see that when ransom is paid by other countries, they get their citizens back. Is it something that -- I know the argument is always, oh, they will just take more hostages. But the truth is, they get the hostages back.

ROGERS: Well, I mean, if we're going to be extorted into paying ransom to al Qaeda so that they can blow -- you know, rape women and imprison women and blow up buildings and kill civilians, men, women and children, that's a pretty bad plan to start with.

And so I agreed with the president's decision. I don't think this was an easy decision. I do think it was the right decision to actually engage and try to go in for the rescue attempt. Nobody can do it better than our special forces community.

It doesn't always go perfectly. That's always the risk. And in this particular case, unfortunately -- and it was a tragic loss of the two hostages -- you know, it was an unfortunate outcome. But I do believe you have to take these kinds of decisions.

And I'm going to -- I commend the president for -- for acting, because the intelligence showed an urgency to get in, or they were going to kill this American hostage anyway.


I want to ask you about a couple other things that are coming up, some that have happened.


CROWLEY: The Obama administration has decided to send six Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Uruguay. It seems to me that while they have -- the administration has said, no, we're not really closing Guantanamo, they're certainly moving much more quickly in getting these prisoners to other countries.

What do you think of this particular deal? I'm assuming Congress was informed of it. I mean, it's not a deal. They just sent them to Uruguay. And what do you think about putting them in Uruguay?

ROGERS: I have been opposed to this notion that we're going to farm out Gitmo to places. By the way, a lot them aren't from Uruguay. They're from all over the rest of the world.

And some of these intelligence services who do these agreements about agreeing to watch them or monitor them can't do it. So, we pay money. Remember this now. We're going to pay a lot of money to these countries who take these particular prisoners. That's not their culture. That's not where they're from.

And these services or law enforcement or intelligence services are supposed to monitor these people. What we have found in the past is, it doesn't work very well, not -- I don't think that surprises anybody. So, I argue that maybe we ought to rethink what we're doing here.

And we do know, by the way, that some past released prisoners are now reengaged in the terrorist fight. We knew that was going to happen. That's why those of us who tried to do the review of this were so concerned. Because they were so interested in getting them out, they forgot to do the due diligence, I think, that would allow them to at least protect the folks who are going to go back into the fight from getting back into the fight.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to a couple of other things.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, we expect, will be releasing this report on the CIA activities vis-a-vis interrogation of terrorists during the Bush administration. It may come this week. Do you know what's in the report? And what's your basic fear? Or do you applaud the idea of saying, let's get some of this out there?

ROGERS: No, I think this is a terrible idea.

So, our foreign partners are telling us this will cause violence and deaths. Our -- foreign leaders have approached the government and said, you do this, this will cause violence and deaths. Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths.

CROWLEY: Because why?

ROGERS: I don't see what...

CROWLEY: Because -- because other countries. And they're not going to name other countries that helped the U.S. in interrogating and holding suspected terrorists.

So, if they don't name it and they don't have things that otherwise identify a country, why would it cause...

ROGERS: Well, certainly, again, these foreign leaders believe it will. Our intelligence community believes it will. And our foreign liaison partners believe it will, because we have seen what happens when other incidents are used in the propaganda terrorist machine to incite violence.

Think of the cartoons in Denmark and how many people died as a result. Think of the burning of the Korans and how many people died as a result. They will use this to incite violence. And here's the scary part about this. Well, again, and Senator Kerry -- excuse me -- Secretary Kerry has engaged in this because he believes this is dangerous to what they're trying to accomplish overseas.

That tells you something there. This is more than just differences on what happened. This is -- and then you have to ask this, Candy. What good will come of this report? There's been a Department of Justice investigation. It was stopped under the Bush administration. There has been congressional action to stop this activity. President Obama put an executive order saying he wouldn't continue any of that activity, not that it was going on. It had since been stopped.

So, you have to ask yourself, if you know that all of those learned people believe that people will die because of this report, what good can come of it, knowing all of that other -- all those other things have actually happened?

CROWLEY: I can't let you go, even though I'm out of time, because I need to ask you about the Benghazi report that your committee put out.

It's been criticized by a lot of Republicans. Some have said it was a bunch of an expletive that I can't use on TV, saying, you know, you slow-walked this. It was a sloppy report. You never wanted to find the Obama administration, you kept saying this is in the past, let's move on, and that it will not be the definitive report.

Your reaction?

ROGERS: Oh, it's not meant to be the most definitive report. I wish -- people who were some of the most vocal critics never read the report.

Actually, some of the most vocal critics never accessed the classified evidence or the classified annex to the report. I find that a little bit troubling that they would spend so much time looking for a partisan angle on this.

Here's the problem when I -- that I learned as a young FBI agent in Chicago. If somebody loves your investigation, best to start over. And what happened is, we decided that we were only going to use facts and then corroborate those facts to come to a finding and a conclusion.

If people read the conclusions, which, by the way, is very narrowly tailored to the intelligence community, the State Department was not part of our investigation. The White House was not part of our investigation. This was only isolated to the intelligence community.

The odd thing is, it mirrors -- mirrors the Senate Intelligence report. It also mirrors the House Armed Services report, which was also a Republican report. None of those reports differ at all, because they were all fact-based.

My argument is, if you -- some people on the left are condemning it. They wanted exoneration. Some on the right are saying they wanted damnation. What we did is laid the facts on the table. And I believe the facts speak for themselves.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in the State Department and the White House. That's where the select committee, I think, can get answers.

CROWLEY: Understand.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us. This may be the last time you join us as chairman. You are moving into not retirement, but a different line of work, our line of work.

ROGERS: We are going to miss you and your voice on Sunday mornings, for sure.

And thanks for all your good service and all of the communication you have been able to do in getting all that information. And, by the way, you are a tough interview, so don't let anyone tell you different.


CROWLEY: All right.

Thank you so much for coming and submitting to them. We appreciate it.

ROGERS: Thank you.