December 6th, 2015
01:09 PM ET

Rubio: “But there are over 700,000 Americans on some watch list or another…And that's the problem.”

SOTU

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, Senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL), joined anchor, Jake Tapper to discuss the San Bernardino attack.

 

For more information, see http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/. Also, text highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below.

 

MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”

 

Contacts: Lauren Pratapas — Lauren.Pratapas@turner.com; 202.465.6666; Zachary Lilly – Zachary.Lilly@turner.com

 

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

 

Rubio reacts to intelligence gathering techniques: “our intelligence-gathering capabilities have been significantly diminished just in the last four or five days.  For example, yesterday, we learned through the Associated Press that the records, the phone records of these two individuals that carried out this attack in California, we only have access to the last two years…This is not going to be the last attempt to attack the homeland.  And so there are other individuals that were of assistance to them.  Do we not want to know who those individuals were, even if a contact happened two-and-a-half years ago or two-and-a-quarter years ago? And the reality is, under these changes in the law, that information will not be there for us to look at.  And then those individuals could lead you to additional individuals. Metadata alone isn't going to solve all the problems, but it's an important piece of a bigger puzzle that allows you to disrupt potential terrorist plots. “

 

Rubio explains the need for a coalition against ISIS: “So, I think it's important that the president begin to outline how they are going to be defeated.  And airstrikes alone aren't going to do it, certainly not the limited airstrikes that are happening now.  But apart from airstrikes, there must be a ground force put together to confront them.  And it must be a ground force made up primarily of Sunni Arabs from the region, including Iraqis and Syrians, but also a contribution of troops from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt.

The UAE has already expressed some willingness to provide ground troops to such an effort.  This is a radical Sunni group.  They need to be defeated by Sunnis themselves on the ground.”

 

Rubio defends his recent vote in the Senate: “The - former Senator Kennedy - Ted Kennedy once said he was on a no-fly list.  I mean, there are - I - we - there are journalists on the no-fly list.  There are others involved in the no-fly list that wind up there. These are everyday Americans that have nothing to with terrorism.  They wind up on the no-fly list.  There's no due process or any way to get your name removed from it in a timely fashion.  And now they're having their Second Amendment right being impeded upon. If these were perfect lists, that would be one thing.  But there are over 700,000 Americans on some watch list or another that would all be captured under this amendment the Democrats offered.  And that's the problem.“

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR:  We also wanted to talk to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has been giving a very forceful presentation when it comes to how the ISIS attack should be responded to.

 

Let's roll that interview.

 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

 

TAPPER:  Joining me now is Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

 

Senator, good to see you.  Thanks for joining us.

 

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you.

 

TAPPER:  President Obama will address the nation this evening to talk about the fight against ISIS and the ongoing investigation into the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attacks.

 

When it comes to protecting the homeland, what steps should be - should the government be taking that we are not taking right now, that the government is not taking right now?

 

RUBIO:  Well, there's a number of things I hope the president will outline tonight.  And I think they will all be part of a strategy towards defeating ISIS and all the broader risks we face to our national security, so not just ISIS.

 

But, for example, our security gathering - our intelligence-gathering capabilities have been significantly diminished just in the last four or five days.  For example, yesterday, we learned through the Associated Press that the records, the phone records of these two individuals that carried out this attack in California, we only have access to the last two years.

 

So, it doesn't give us a complete picture of, for example, the U.S. citizens' involvement for the last five years.  So, I hope the president will work with us to reverse that, so the intelligence agencies have access to a full picture.

 

He's also issued a series of presidential directives that have weakened our ability to gather intelligence against potential adversaries.  And so I hope that that will be changed as well.

 

And then, when it comes to ISIS and around the world, they're a growing threat in multiple countries.  They're now beginning to pop up in Yemen.  They're growing their influence in Afghanistan.  They now have a very significant influence in Libya, as I have pointed out for months, and, of course, Iraq and Syria.

 

And so, by the way, I think Jordan is very concerned about attacks within Jordan that are - could potentially be imminent at any moment.  We have got a growing crisis here on our hands in the Middle East with ISIS.

 

So, I think it's important that the president begin to outline how they are going to be defeated.  And airstrikes alone aren't going to do it, certainly not the limited airstrikes that are happening now.  But apart from airstrikes, there must be a ground force put together to confront them.  And it must be a ground force made up primarily of Sunni Arabs from the region, including Iraqis and Syrians, but also a contribution of troops from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt.

 

The UAE has already expressed some willingness to provide ground troops to such an effort.  This is a radical Sunni group.  They need to be defeated by Sunnis themselves on the ground.

 

TAPPER:  Right.  Well, let me ask you about the surveillance aspect of what you were just talking about, because I asked the White House about the - specifically about this Associated Press story.

 

And they say that, first of all, they have access - now, under this new policy, this new program, they have access to more metadata than before in terms of the overall volume.  And say that this is a criminal investigation now because of - the attack is in the past.

 

And the Department of Justice has access to many, many years of calls.  Are you saying that there's anything that changed in the recent days that, if it had not changed, that these individuals could have been detected?

 

RUBIO:  I'm not saying that alone.  The Associated Press is saying that, as they reported yesterday.

 

And, again, this talk about this being a criminal investigation goes back to exactly what my problems are with this administration.  This is a terrorist operation within the United States.  The fact that they were not told by ISIS go into the specific center on a specific date and conduct an attack fundamentally misunderstands the nature of this growing threat.

 

The homegrown violent extremist doesn't take specific direction from ISIS.  They are inspired to take action.  And, for example, how did these people come up with the money to buy these weapons and the ammunition and build the pipe bombs?  This was potentially thousands of dollars of expenditures.

 

Are we going to be able to track down where that money came from?  Again, they have - they have lost an intelligence tool that was very valuable, because they're trying to go back to phone companies.  Most of - many of these phone companies are saying, we're not even going to retain records.

 

Others are only retaining them for 18 month.  So, even if they have access to it, if the documents do not exist, they can't put together the broader picture of who these people are, who they have been dealing with, particularly the man, who has been in this country his whole life.  Wouldn't we want to know as much about him as possible in an effort to perhaps identify others that were of assistance in this attack?

 

According to the Associated Press, that information is no longer available.

 

TAPPER:  He wasn't on anybody's radar.  I guess that is the question, is, how would he have been detected if he wasn't on anybody's radar?  And in terms of the woman, she's only been in this country for two years.

 

RUBIO:  But that's exactly why the metadata program is so critical.

 

They - people wind up on your radar that perhaps wouldn't have been on your radar.  So, for example, for them to conduct this attack, I believe that it is highly possible, highly likely that they dealt with somebody at some stage in this process, whether it was a person who helped them finance this effort or individuals that provided weapons.  And that's why you want access to the metadata, because...

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

TAPPER:  Right, but the metadata program...

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

RUBIO:  .... about those individuals - go ahead.

 

TAPPER:  It was the old program during all those years.  That's what I'm saying.

 

If it changed recently, that's - I understand what you're saying going forward, but in terms of finding Syed Farook, like, that was the under the old metadata program.

 

RUBIO:  No, I - yes, right.

 

But that's what I'm talking about, moving forward.  This is not going to be the last attempt to attack the homeland.  And so there are other individuals that were of assistance to them.  Do we not want to know who those individuals were, even if a contact happened two-and-a-half years ago or two-and-a-quarter years ago?

 

And the reality is, under these changes in the law, that information will not be there for us to look at.  And then those individuals could lead you to additional individuals.

 

Metadata alone isn't going to solve all the problems, but it's an important piece of a bigger puzzle that allows you to disrupt potential terrorist plots.  And these are not plots like the 9/11 plot, where you had over a dozen individuals working together on a very specific plan over an extended period of time.

 

Homegrown violent extremists are going to be even harder to identify.  And the one area you might be able to identify them before they take action is if they come into contact with someone that we know is clearly involved in terrorism, we suspect is involved in terrorism.

 

Again, there are individuals they talked to over the last couple of years that do belong on our radar now who may not be on our radar because we can only see the records for the last two years or whatever the phone companies are holding.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

RUBIO:  The law allows up to two years, but many of these phone companies have already said, we're not holding onto records at all.

 

By the way, I think those are the phone companies that are getting a lot of business from people who intend to do this sort of thing.

 

TAPPER:  How does this proactive approach when it comes to having people on your radar in terms of the U.S. government looking for terrorists, how does it square with the fact that, on Thursday, the day after the attack in San Bernardino, you and every Republican in the Senate voted no - except for Mark Kirk, I should point out - you and almost every Republican in the Senate voted no on legislation that would have kept people on terrorist watch lists from being able to purchase firearms or explosives.

 

RUBIO:  Because...

 

TAPPER:  President Obama calls insane that people on the no-fly list can walk in and buy explosives or a gun.

 

RUBIO:  Because there are - the majority of people on the no-fly list are oftentimes people that basically just have the same name as somebody else who don't belong on the no-fly list.

 

The - former Senator Kennedy - Ted Kennedy once said he was on a no-fly list.  I mean, there are - I - we - there are journalists on the no-fly list.  There are others involved in the no-fly list that wind up there.

 

These are everyday Americans that have nothing to with terrorism.  They wind up on the no-fly list.  There's no due process or any way to get your name removed from it in a timely fashion.  And now they're having their Second Amendment right being impeded upon.

 

If these were perfect lists, that would be one thing.  But there are over 700,000 Americans on some watch list or another that would all be captured under this amendment the Democrats offered.  And that's the problem.

 

The vast - there aren't 700,000 terrorists operating in America openly on watch lists.  They include vast numbers of Americans who have names similar to someone we're looking for.  Sometimes, you're only on that list because the FBI wants to talk to you about someone you know, not because you're a suspect.  And, again, now your Second Amendment right is being impeded with.

 

TAPPER:  I don't think it's accurate to say that a majority of them are on the list by accident, but let me...

 

RUBIO:  A very significant number of people on those lists are on there because they have names similar to somebody else.  My office deals with dozens of calls every year from people that are on no-fly lists or identified lists of watch lists.  It's not just the no-fly lists.  That's not just the no-fly lists.

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

TAPPER:  So, these watch lists should just be - these watch lists should just be ignored?

 

RUBIO:  No, they shouldn't be ignored.  But they shouldn't be used as a tool to impede 700,000 Americans or potential Americans - people on that list from having access to be able to fully utilize their Second Amendment rights.

 

There are many people on no-fly lists that are not terrorists, not just no-fly lists - I apologize - on any of these terror watch lists, because that amendment was not just limited to the no-fly list.  That's not a perfect database.  And it has a significant number of errors.

 

TAPPER:  Senator Marco Rubio, thanks so much for joining us.

 

And please wish your wife happy birthday for us.

 

RUBIO:  Thank you.

###END INTERVIEW###

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