Custom Search

Sunday, November 29, 2015






"Joining us from North Carolina, Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Chairman, as the busiest travel weekend of the year wraps up, is there any specific, credible threats against Americans to the best of your knowledge, either in this country or around the world?"


"Well, Chris, credible, specific -- no. But for the past 12 months, there have been more threads of threats both here at home and around the world that we’ve seen since 9/11. So, the risk remains high, but clearly, in the United States, the FBI has wrapped up over 67 individuals that were incarcerated this year and are either prosecuted or in the process of being prosecuted. And that will continue.

WALLACE: How big an international footprint does ISIS have now? How serious a threat in the U.S. and in other countries outside the Middle East?

BURR: Well, Chris, it's proven that ISIS is in 30 different countries, they control eight provinces of countries. They've got a reach that goes throughout Europe and North America.

So, to talk about containment is really a joke. The reality is that ISIS may be geographically contained in Syria and Iraq, but their efforts around the world to project terrorism and to commit terrorism is as robust today as it's ever been.

WALLACE: Well, with that as a backdrop, Senator, at a news conference this week with French President Hollande, President Obama did not announce -- despite the attack in Mali, despite the attack in Paris -- did not announces in new steps in his war against ISIS, which raises the question: what’s your assessment of the president as current strategy, and how much do you think it can accomplish?

BURR: Well, we have no strategy. I don't think you can find anybody in the world outside of the administration that could attempt to state what America’s strategy is.
In the past three weeks, Chris, we've seen over 500 individuals killed around the world at the hands of ISIS. I don’t think there’s any question of that. And in Syria alone, we've had over 240,000 Syrians killed. That's both by Assad and ISIS, and over 4 million refugees in flight.
It's time for an international coalition to come in and arm groups like the Kurds to create a safe haven, a no-fly zone, where we can stop the refugee flight out of Syria. But only with American leadership will that happen.
And I hope that while the administration is in Paris, maybe they'll talk with President Hollande, who I think is committed to eliminate ISIS. We’ve got to stop talking about containment and we’ve got to talk about elimination of the terrorist threat.

WALLACE: Meanwhile, Hollande after meeting with President Obama in Washington then flew to Moscow to meet with Russian President Putin.
And here is what President Obama said about Putin:

OBAMA: Russia right now is a coalition of two, Iran and Russia, supporting Assad.

WALLACE: What's your best intelligence, Chairman Burr? Can we count on Putin at all? There's talk about a grand coalition. At first, it seemed when Putin met with Hollande, there was a possibility he would join the coalition, then the Russians seemed to walk away from that.
What's your sense of Putin's intentions?

BURR: Well, I think Putin’s intention is to prop up Assad. That's always been his stated goal. I don't think that we cannot remember that Putin invaded Crimea, currently prosecutes a border war in the Ukraine. I’m not sure that Putin can be trusted.
But, Chris, let me make this fact: ISIS has to be eliminated. I’m ready to put together whatever coalition is willing to attack ISIS and eliminate this terrorist threat. That means Gulf state partners, it means European partners, it may mean Russia.
But Russia sure complicates the options we have in Syria, with the amount of aircraft, with the amount of arms that they have there. If we can focus those on ISIS versus the moderate opposition forces that are trying to defeat Assad, we could make a real impact, but that's going to take a great deal of diplomacy that we have yet to see.

WALLACE: There's been some interesting developments on intelligence issues, really, in the last week. I want to talk to you about those, sir.
Today at midnight, the NSA's bulk data collection of America's phone records, that program expired as of last night, and now the NSA is going to need a court order from a judge to collect records on any American. And again, we're not talking about the content of the phone call, simply my phone number called your phone number, and we spoke, or people on those two lines spoke for X number of minutes.
What impact do you think that’s going to have on your counter-terrorism effort?

BURR: Chris, I don't think it's too troubling you would need a court order. I think what's troubling is that you'll have to go to multiple telecom companies, and at their pace search their records, which means it could take weeks.
What we saw in Paris once we got a cell phone was that we used that cell phone number to look at cell phones it had talked to -- and not only Paris investigators but Belgian investigators were able to expand the search net in a way that stopped a massive terrorist attack, an additional one in Paris, potentially has led to the apprehension of at least a dozen, if not more, ISIS operatives throughout Belgium, Germany, and parts of Europe.
I’m not sure that we know the full extent of what we’ve learned to this point, but any time you can take electronics and use those selectors, it's beneficial to the world's intelligence community. And the United States made a real mistake when they eliminated this program where we could search foreign known terrorist' cell phones.
But Congress took that away from the NSA, and, unfortunately, it's not going to be a timely tool to use in the future.

WALLACE: Well, let me pick up on that. You have signed on to legislation that’s now in the Senate that would revive the program, which is I say ran out as of midnight, but the Senate just voted to end the program in June. So, what are the chances that they're going to reverse that just a few months later?

BURR: Well, Chris, it's amazing what happens when people are reminded what terrorists can do. It hadn’t happened here at home, but I think the American response to the Paris attack was as significant outside of New York and New Jersey as 9/11 was. The American people recognize that the indiscriminate, brutal acts that ISIS carried out could happen in any community across this country and throughout the world.
And I think as Americans, we believe we should do everything we can to eliminate that. Knowing who the terrorists are and where operatives may be in the United States or something, Americans expect us to know, they expect us to investigate.
I want to make sure that the tools that law enforcement have are as robust as they possibly can be, and metadata is a big contributor to that.

WALLACE: I want to get into one last issue with you. There are several allegations into allegations that officers at the U.S. Central Command, the military operation that oversees the Middle East, were altering and doctoring the intelligence from their analysts to downplay the threat from ISIS. I know you’ve talked to whistle-blowers. I know there are several investigations going on in your committee, also the Pentagon inspector general.
How substantial is the evidence that intelligence was doctored, sir?

BURR: Well, it's very concerning. The whistle-blower that I’ve talked to was very compelling. And, clearly, some of the information that's come out in the last seven days supported what that whistle-blower claimed.
Any time we’ve got intelligence that may have been altered in some way, shape or form to fit a narrative that might be the narrative set by the White House is concerning to me. To think that it could come from one of our combatant commands, in this case CentCom, is extremely troubling, because that changes really the risk that our combat forces might perceive, that they're going to be faced with in that combat theater.

WALLACE: Let me, let me pick --

BURR: So, I want to make sure that our -- yes, sure.

WALLACE: Let me just pick up on that, if I can, sir, because this week, when faced with those allegations, President Obama denied that he had anything to do with that. Take a look at what the president had to say.

OBAMA: One of the things I insisted on the day I walked into the Oval Office was that I don't want intelligence shaded by politics. I don't want it shaded by the desire to tell a feel-good story.

WALLACE: Briefly, Senator, do you have any evidence the White House was involved in cooking the intelligence?

BURR: Chris, I don't, but we're going to look at the timeline very carefully to figure out whether the narrative was there before the intelligence backed it up. We’ve got a case in Benghazi that’s currently under investigation, where we know that a narrative went out that was factually incorrect. When all the facts on the ground said it was terrorism, we were out talking about a video.

So, narrative has been something that this White House has run with before. It concerns me now because Americans' lives are at stakes. Our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, our marines’ lives are at stake when we do this.

WALLACE: Chairman Burr, thank you. Thanks for you your time on this holiday weekend, sir.

BURR: Thank you, Chris."

Post Sources: Fox News Sunday, WXII, YouTube

No comments: