House & Senate Intelligence Chairs on ISIS
Today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI) discuss issues with immigration and security in the face of ISIS. The two chairmen of their respective Intelligence Committees in the House and the Senate emphasize the imperative to eliminate ISIS.
Senator Feinstein on Obama’s approach to ISIS: “I want to congratulate the president. He is now on the offense. He has put together the coalition of nine nations. His people are in different regional countries as we speak, consulting and trying to bring in other countries in the region. I think that this is a major change in how ISIS is approached. It is overdue, by the president is now there.”
Rep. Mike Rogers on ISIS’ organization: “Remember, they have a governing council. They have an oil minister that — appointed that we think generates about $1 million a day in revenue for this terrorist organization that funds its operations. And we hope it doesn’t go external. So, what you have to do, when you start acting like a government, you start acting in the control of that territory and an army, it presents targets of opportunity, so that you can continue to degrade and dismantle them. ”
Senator Feinstein on a potential ISIS target: “ISIS is a major threat to this country in the future and right now to the entirety of Syria and Iraq, and the expanding caliphate. I think where they’re going is to Baghdad. It is my belief they will try to attack our embassy.“
A full transcript of the interview is available after the jump.
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CROWLEY: Then there’s this weekend’s big announcement. The president, who we thought would find some way to stop deporting otherwise law-abiding people who are undocumented, won’t take any action until after the November elections.
It gives us plenty to talk about with Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Mike Rogers.
First to you, Congressman Rogers.
Sir, the president has delayed this executive order that he indicated in June would happen at end of the summer. Why did he do that?
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I think he’s being prudent about it.
When you look at, A, this is such an emotional issue all across America, I think that was wise. He needs to work with Congress on this. It’s not just about the immigration problem of the illegals who are in the United States and what their status might be. That southern border has become a national security issue, a public health issue for the United States, and certainly a local security issue.
All of those things need to be, I think, addressed. The best way to do that is do it in a cooperative effort with Congress.
CROWLEY: Well, Congressman, let me…
ROGERS: I think you will get a much better product, a secure border, and we can move forward.
Let me just — let me just intervene here and tell you that the president says he is going to do this executive action right after the midterms. So, you don’t see this as a political action on the president’s part? You think it means he’s going to cooperate with Congress and come up with an immigration bill?
ROGERS: Well, I — I clearly think that it’s political, in the sense that he understands how unpopular that decision would be with Americans.
And it’s probably not the right decision — as a matter of fact, not probably — it isn’t and would not be the right decision for him to do that. I hope he doesn’t do it after the election. I think at least he postponed it at this point. Again, people rushing to do this, there are lots of implications here for national security, local security, public health security, costs of education.
There are huge problems with this. The best way to do this is to bring people together and work with them in Congress. I think we can come up with a bill that secures the border and gets to — you know, moves this issue along to a place where Americans can be comfortable with it. It is — I think it’s very risky for the president — he already has a bit of a credibility crisis — to take this step. I think it would make a long two years’ remainder in his presidency.
CROWLEY: Let me — let me pick up with the credibility crisis, because where he has one now is with the Latino community, which you know has voted heavily Democratic in the past.
Is there long-term damage from the president, who has promised and promised and promised from his first, you know, campaign, actually, that he would deal with the immigration issue? It looks like there’s some damage done here.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: Well, I have no knowledge of what he can do legally under an executive order.
I also believe it would be legally challenged. The Senate has spent, under the leadership of Pat Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, literally months on a bill, a comprehensive bill, 100 amendments, week after week after week. It is a good bill.
All the House would have to do is pass one part of that bill. We could conference it, work out the differences, and we would have an immigration bill which would be strong.
CROWLEY: But the president says, look, I’m going to do this after the election. Politics are at play here, yes? Can we state the obvious?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I’m of the opinion that the way this should be done is legislatively, because anything else will be challenged, and probably will not be nearly the bill that is actually needed to solve the problems.
CROWLEY: Let me — I want to move you all now to ISIS and a number of the things that have been said.
Congressman Rogers, I want to pick up with an op-ed that you wrote in “TIME” magazine this week, and pull out a part of it where you said this, referring to ISIS, “is a terrorist organization that has an army, and we need to treat it that way. To defeat this enemy, we will have to risk Americans who will be operating in the fight.”
OK, specifically, how will — would they be operating in the fight?
ROGERS: Well, you need two things to defeat ISIS the way they’re configured.
Remember, they have a governing council. They have an oil minister that — appointed that we think generates about $1 million a day in revenue for this terrorist organization that funds its operations. And we hope it doesn’t go external.
So, what you have to do, when you start acting like a government, you start acting in the control of that territory and an army, it presents targets of opportunity, so that you can continue to degrade and dismantle them.
That would mean that we have that we have intelligence and special-capability military forces that would have to operate with our allies, with the Arab — our Arab League partners, with the Peshmerga. And we’re not configured to do that today.
And, if we do that, we can add leverage to this fight in a way that can be very, very effective. But it does mean that we will have some forces who will be exposed. This doesn’t mean big military, 101st Airborne. It does mean these intelligence service folks and our special-capability military.
CROWLEY: Special Operations, Special Forces stuff.
Senator Feinstein, the president has his coalition. He talked about it at NATO. But, in the past, we have had a coalition of the willing, and they weren’t willing to do a number of things. We — we had some nations in the war in Iraq who said, well, we will — you know, we’re fine, but, in Afghanistan, keep us out of the war zone. We don’t want to be in the war zone. And, also, we don’t want to carry guns.
So, really, how much help is it to have a coalition of the willing if they’re not willing to go — what both you and Congressman Rogers think should happen, which is to destroy ISIS, and now, of course, the president says?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I want to congratulate the president. He is now on the offense.
He has put together the coalition of nine nations. His people are in different regional countries as we speak consulting and trying to bring in other countries in the region. I think that this is a major change in how ISIS is approached.
CROWLEY: From the president’s…
FEINSTEIN: I — in my view, and I think in Mike’s view, too, ISIS is a major threat to this country in the future and right now to the entirety of Syria and Iraq, and the expanding caliphate.
I think where they’re going is to Baghdad. It is my belief they will try to attack our embassy. So we’re going to protect our embassy, protect our consulate in Irbil, and, at the same time, begin to use Special Operations, more ISR, crack down on where they’re getting their money, and taking aggressive action against this terrorist group.
It is overdue, but the president is now there. And I think it’s the right thing for America, and, hopefully, our partners will be aggressive with us.
CROWLEY: Congressman, the senator says the president is now there. We certainly have heard his rhetoric change. We’re not talking about managing ISIS. He’s talking about dismantling and destroying.
We also know that he is going to meet with congressional leaders about ISIS this week, and he is going to have an address to the nation Wednesday.
So, tell me — and we’re told that he will have a plan. What do you want to be in that plan? What does he have to say to the American people?
ROGERS: Well, first of all, he needs to acknowledge the problem of ISIS. There’s been some confusion coming out of the administration. This is the toughest talk that we have heard from the president. And I agree with Senator Feinstein. That’s a good thing, because they are a threat.
The senator and I see all this intelligence, and that’s very — been very, very concerning for us. So this is important, that he lays out the case to the United States of why it is a threat. I know he’s been reluctant to do that. He’s been reluctant to posture America in a position that is willing and understanding of — to, A, dismantle them, and, B, why we should dismantle them, why is it in U.S. interests.
And it’s not just Iraq and Syria. It is both of those, but it’s also everything in the Levant. They want Lebanon. They want Israel. They want Jordan. And so they’re causing trouble in all of those places. The president needs to lay out a very certain case.
And, clearly, he’s put together a coalition of the willing — we have heard that before — to tackle this problem. That’s good. But we need to be aggressive in posturing ourselves to get ready for this. These are things the president can do. I think Senator Feinstein and I would both support those efforts.
And then I think he needs to engage Congress, the American people on what exactly we’re going to do here. Now, we don’t have to talk about targets and how many sorties we’re flying or how many strikes that we do.
We need to have an endgame. The president ought to lay out that strategy and say, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to invest ourselves in this with our partners, both our Arab League partners. And I know there’s some repairing happening there with those relationships. That’s important.
ROGERS: So, I think this can be a very positive thing for the United States, if we do this right.
CROWLEY: Senator Feinstein, what do you want to hear from the president, both in private in those congressional leadership meetings, and what do you want him to say to the public specifically in terms of strategy?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I spoke with Ben Rhodes yesterday, and I asked him, well, who is going to be in charge now? The devil is in the details of putting this together.
And he said very clearly Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry. So, what I want to hear is from both of those two, what is the military plan and what is the diplomatic plan? And time’s a wasting, because we have now said that we’re going to go on the offensive. And it’s time for America to project power and strength.
CROWLEY: And, Senator, the one thing you want to hear the president say to the American people Wednesday?
FEINSTEIN: What — the one thing is — Wednesday, when he speaks, is that — what the change is, what the coalition of the willing is willing to do, what the Saudis are going to do, if, in fact — and there’s a difference of opinion on this — is Iran going to help? Iran has offered to help — I, for one, think that’s useful — what other Middle Eastern countries are going to do, and what would be the prime role for America.
I hope we have Special Operations. We have made air attacks now 137 times.
CROWLEY: In Iraq.
FEINSTEIN: We should have Special Operations working.
We should use our ISR much more than has been. It’s been difficult in Syria, but that is now ramping up. I believe we should go after their command-and-control, where there are caches of equipment, and use that ISR and take it out, as well as in Iraq, as — the same thing.
CROWLEY: Going to be a busy, interesting week.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Rogers, thanks for kicking it off for us. Appreciate it.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Candy.
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