November 12, 2012
TRANSCRIPT: SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN DISCUSSES PETRAEUS AFFAIR ON "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS"
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NEW YORK—NOVEMBER 12, 2012— Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair, told Andrea Mitchell today that "this is certainly an operationally sensitive matter. But we weren't briefed. I don't know who made that decision," when asked about the committees lack of knowledge of General Petraeus' affair. Sen. Feinstein concerns continue to escalate and said, "it's been like peeling an onion. Every day, another peel comes off, and you see a whole new dimension to this."
A transcript of the interview is below, if used please credit “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”
Link to embeddable clip: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/msnbc/49792846
Additional information on tv.msnbc.com: http://tv.msnbc.com/2012/11/12/sen-feinstein-on-petraeus-we-need-to-get-to-the-bottom-of-it/
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: California Senator DiaNne Feinstein chairs the Select Committee on Intelligence, and she joins me now.
Senator, why did you and your colleague on the House side, Mike Rogers, Congressman Rogers, not know about this for all of these months?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIF.: Because a decision was made somewhere not to brief us, which is atypical. Generally, what we call the four corners, the chair and rankings of both committees are briefed on operationally sensitive matters.
This is certainly an operationally sensitive matter. But we weren't briefed. I don't know who made that decision. And I think that makes it much more difficult.
I think it has to be said, too, that we have never violated that requirement by releasing any information on matters on which we are briefed. So there was no backstory as to why we wouldn't be.
So it is very puzzling and I think was a mistake, because this thing just came so fast and so hard. And since then, it's been like peeling an onion. Every day, another peel comes off, and you see a whole new dimension to this.
So my concern has actually escalated over the last few days, and we're putting in place a process, meeting with the committee, spelling out that process and -- beginning in two days, three days.
MITCHELL: And in meeting with the committee, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate committee, you want to know, and you want to know from your colleagues, because you work collectively, you want to know why the FBI did not inform you that an investigation that had started separately, with no mention of David Petraeus, had morphed, by the FBI, into an investigation that, at least for a while, included the possibility of national security secrets and the CIA director.
FEINSTEIN: Well, not only that --
MITCHELL: And you were never informed.
FEINSTEIN: -- but an FBI agent, apparently, took it upon himself to go to members of the House and tell them. And this was outside of the general line of information. And that's deeply disturbing. So I will --
MITCHELL: Let me just --
FEINSTEIN: -- take a look at that too.
MITCHELL: -- let me circle back to that, because the FBI agent who had initially been contacted by this woman, who was a friend of the Petraeus' family, Jill Kelly in Tampa, this FBI agent who knew her -- so she went to him as far as our reporting is concerned --, she went to him and asked for help. She was getting e-mails that were of concern to her, harassing or threatening e-mails.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL (voice-over): This is Jill Kelly, whose husband and the Petraeuses have been friends for more than five years, from Tampa (inaudible) --
FEINSTEIN: Well, this is all news to me. This is -- see, we were not told this. This is the first time I've learned of this. So that makes me think how many other things are there, too?
MITCHELL: Well, and from what -- our reporting, from my colleagues, Pete Williams, Michael Isikoff and I, from other sources, are reporting is that this agent was then taken off the case because of supposedly inappropriate behavior.
He then was concerned at some point that the investigation was not proceeding; he was perhaps thinking there was a cover-up. And he went to the House members.
So it was actually Eric Cantor, the majority leader, who was told about this, at least 10 days before the President of the United States. How does that happen? And before you?
FEINSTEIN: Well, that shouldn't have happened. And we need to get to the bottom of it. If it is, as you describe, then I think disciplinary action is in order. But I can't prejudge it. And, you know, I have great respect for you, but we have to find this out as fact and evidence.
MITCHELL: Is there anything to this that could involve the rivalry, past rivalries that have been repaired, we have been told, between the FBI and the CIA?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, I don't believe that's true. In all my 10 years, 11, 12 years on the committee, I haven't seen any such rivalry.
MITCHELL: And what would be the premise for investigating David Petraeus?
FEINSTEIN: The premise is not necessarily an investigation. The premise is to see exactly what happened. I believe that Director Petraeus made a trip to the region, shortly before this became public.
MITCHELL: To Libya?
I believe that there is a trip report. We have asked to see the trip report. One person tells me he has read it, and then we tried to get it and they tell me it hasn't been done.
That's unacceptable. We are entitled to this trip report. And if we have to go to the floor of the Senate on a subpoena, we will do just that.
MITCHELL: You're suggesting that you might have to subpoena from the intelligence community a trip report that David Petraeus made after going to Libya within the last two --
FEINSTEIN: Yes, for the very reason that it may have some very relevant information to what happened in Benghazi.
MITCHELL: And that's the other piece of this. Do you think there's anything to the conspiracy theorists who have suggested that his resignation over this extramarital affair and behavior that he says was not acceptable behavior -- a mistake that he made in his personal life -- do you think there's any connection at all to Benghazi?
FEINSTEIN: No. I've seen none so far.
Now, again, as I said, you know, the skin of the onion is getting peeled off. We don't know what we may find.
And that's why I think it's very important that we begin, that we have an orderly process, that we not jeopardize anyone's rights, that we be respectful, that some of our investigation and inquiry is done in closed session. Some will be done in open session. And we need to make those decisions with the entire committee membership. And I hope to do that late tomorrow afternoon.
MITCHELL: Since he did the fact checking himself on this trip, shouldn't he testify on Thursday as originally scheduled?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think we should go ahead with Mike Morell and the way it is now set up. But I also think that the community should know that this is not sufficient. And I have no doubt now that we will need to talk with David Petraeus. And we will likely do that in closed session. But it will be done, one way or the other.
MITCHELL: There's a lot of speculation now about Paula Broadwell and what she said, in particular, in a speech in Denver, where she claimed to have classified information that the motive for the attack on the consulate and the annex in Benghazi was to free some Libyan militia prisoners who were being held by the CIA in Benghazi.
Do you have any information about that?
FEINSTEIN: No, my staff has checked and they were told that this isn't correct, this isn't true. We'll see. I mean, that's -- this is something that we need to check out and check out carefully and we will.
MITCHELL: What about the fact that she appeared to have classified information? Is there some way that she would have classified information, other than what she might have gotten from General Petraeus, which the FBI says did not happen? The FBI has cleared him of sharing any classified information with her.
FEINSTEIN: I believe that's correct. I do not know how she got that information. We should find out. I don't know why. It's a rather confused situation, because at one point she was an Army reservist, doing intelligence-related work.
At the same time, she was doing a journalist's work, a biography on David Petraeus. It seems to me these two things don't go together. It seems to me that somebody that becomes active military should not be writing a book at the same time.
And the fact of the matter is that she's out making speeches about this. Now, it's against the law to have classified information on your personal computer. We've lost a CIA director in the past, just because of this.
MITCHELL: John Deutch.
FEINSTEIN: That's correct.
MITCHELL: Who was briefly CIA director during the Clinton years. Some people are asking me -- this is a layman's question, that comes to us -- how could the CIA director, who has such security, be operating in this extramarital affair? How could he have the privacy for this to have happened?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, well, people find ways. I mean, that's all I can say. People find ways. And it happens over and over and over again.
MITCHELL: And in terms of Paula Broadwell, will you want to call her as a witness as well?
FEINSTEIN: We'll see. I don't know at this time. Again, things change day by day.
MITCHELL: Is your primary concern now Benghazi, what happened there, the intelligence failures that could have taken place there?
FEINSTEIN: The primary concern, Andrea, is to see if there's a national security connection. If there is, what is there? What is it?
Secondly, was this an intelligence failure? To some respect, if you ask me right now, based on what I've seen, I would have to say yes.
And that's the timeline of the response and the change from the original talking points, which said it was a likely demonstration, to a terrorist attack 10 days later.
I don't know what took them 10 days to figure that out, candidly. And that's a problem. So I want to know what the process is for decision-making in this case, why it moves so slowly and why the initial statement didn't get corrected more quickly.
MITCHELL: You also, certainly, have questions about why attacks -- there were five separate attacks in Benghazi, around the consulate, in the area of the consulate. So these were not threat warnings. These were literally attacks.
FEINSTEIN: Well, that's right. Let me run through them.
This is in the five months before the attack.
On April 6th, a small explosive called a fish bomb was thrown over the wall at the consulate.
On April the 10th, four days later, explosives hit convoy of head of U.N. mission in Benghazi.
May 22nd, an RPG attack on the International Red Cross building in Benghazi.
On June 6th, an IED attack on our own consulate, this consulate, in Benghazi.
On June 11th, an RPG attack on the British ambassador's convoy in Benghazi.
Now, how dispositive is that as to whether terrorists are active in the area? I would say, with certainty, it is dispositive.
And therefore, the way I see it, this was clearly a terrorist attack the minute you knew they had RPGs and mortars. And I think John McCain said that very early on. And he was dead-on. It's just a fact. So, I mean, who else is doing this kind of thing with mortars and RPGs?
MITCHELL: Some of your Senate colleagues are suggesting a joint House-Senate committee like the Iran-Contra Committee, like the 9/11 Commission. Can this be handled by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, it certainly could be. I mean, we work very well together. The four corners meet, we discuss. I've had no proposal to that. I'd certainly be open to the proposal. You don't want to make it so big that it's a problem but, on the other hand, this has to be bipartisan and it should be bicameral, I would think. So I'm open to the suggestion.
MITCHELL: And returning, finally, to the resignation of David Petraeus, how badly damaged is the CIA and our intelligence community by this?
FEINSTEIN: Well, the CIA is going to go on. And the CIA will recover. This is a professional organization. It's a strong organization. The number two is very good. He will take over and take over quickly. And then, hopefully, the president will make an appointment and that will fill the gap and things will go on.
MITCHELL: And finally, you've said that you should have been told earlier. Should the president have been told earlier?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, you cannot keep these things from the people who hold the responsibility for oversight. You have to know. What if something else happened and this never came to light and then down the path, something resulted from it?
MITCHELL: Thank you so very much.
FEINSTEIN: You're very welcome. Thank you.