'This Week' Panel: Syria and Boston

Rep. Mike Rogers, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Jeffrey Goldberg, Martha Raddatz.
3:00 | 04/28/13

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Transcript for 'This Week' Panel: Syria and Boston
Good morning, and welcome to "this week." Game changer. A red line for us is, we start seeing chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. Chemical weapons in syria. Does that military action is next? Plus, the boston bombings investigation. It's dangerous to the greater community. Did the interrogation end too soon? Were warning signs missed? Breaking details in a "this week" exclusive. Then -- I appreciate my fellow members of the former presidents club. A parade of presidents in texas. Armageddon at the airport and -- everything you ate this morning was personally shot by wayne la pierre. We borrowed one of michelle's tricks. Washington's prom night. It's my favorite event of the year. We've got all of the stars, jokes and glamour from the white house correspondents' dinner. "This week" with george stephanopoulos starts right now. Hello again. They call it the nerd prom. That one night every year when politicians and ess pretend to be hollywood stars, red carpet and all. And hollywood turned out in more force than ever last night all to hear the president take some shots at the press. I know that cnn has taken some knocks lately. I admire their desire to coverage all sides of the story. Just in case one of them happens to be accurate. And his himself. I'm out in california, i mentioned that kamala harris is the best looking attorney general in the country. As you might imagine, I got in trouble when I got back home. Who knew eric holder was so sensitive? Conan o'brien shot right back. It's been several months since you were re-elected, sir, so I'm curious, why are you still sending five e-mails a day asking for more money? You won! Do you have a gambling problem we don't know about? And both men honored the americans who rallied for others after the explosions in boston and texas. We've had some difficult days. But, even when the days seemed darkest, we have seen humanity shine at its brightest. We have seen first responders, the nation guardsmen who dashed into danger. And everyday americans who are opening their homes and hearts to perfect strangers. The dinner raised scholarship money for young journalists too. We'll have much more from the evening ahead. Now, we turn to the new questions about intelligence and national security building all week, from syria to boston to russia. And here to discuss the fallout, mike rogers, ranking member dutch ruppersberger, jan schakowsky, along with jeffrey goldberg and martha raddatz. Martha, let me begin with you and let's start with syria and this week, administration discovered some evidence of chemical weapons used in syria. Describe the evidence. I think it sounds like pretty strong evidence. They got hair samples, tissue samples from some of the victims. They're at least 30 people died in aleppo alone that believe that's traced to the nerve agent sarin. They don't have the change of custody. They believe the assad regime is responsible for the deaths. But they don't know how yet to track that. We have people on the ground. The u.N. Is not on the ground to trace that change of custody for proof. They say the evidence is not conclusive. That's why they need further investigation. Several weeks. We have people on the ground, it dissipates quickly. It could take longer than that. Mike rogers, you have looked at a lot of this evidence, is it conclusive for you? It is. We have classified evidence I think what we have strengthens the case. Some amount of chemical weapons have been used over the last two years. The president has laid down the line. It can't be a dotted line. In more than just syria, iran is paying attention to this, north korea is paying attention to this. I think the options aren't huge but some action needs to be taken. The destabilizing impact, right now, chemical weapons have been small in use. If you have a large use -- how do you explain it was such a small use of chemical weapons, presumably president assad knew that if he would use chemical weapons it would trigger a response? It could be tested. Whatever it is, it's a red line, you don't kill people with chemical weapons. It's not just about the united states and where we stand it's about the whole world. The key player here is russia, i think russia cnd up and make a difference, and they have had before, within the last month, russia I'm sure went to assad and said, look, you don't cross this line and I think at this point, that's where we are. Let me ask you, do you agree that the line has been crossed is inconclusive? I believe the president and his deliberate approach to this. We have had a little problem going to the u.N. With the idea of weapons of mass destruction before, so we certainly want to finish the investigation. But he said it's not an on and off switch. But it has changed his calculation and, of course, he's looking into all of the options. But, you know, to imply that maybe we're not doing enough or we're not doing anything, i think also is mistake. But jeffrey goldberg, you wrote a couple of pieces this week, saying very clearly, the red line has been crossed and the president must act. The president has doubled down on this notion that if syria uses chemical weapons, the president would take action. He's kind of put himself in a box? He has. Except, especially because of our experience with iraq, this has to be excellent intelligence. But, it's fine for the president to demand extra, extra levels of certification if you will. But, no, he has. This is the problem with red lines. He hasn't put down a red line, he's been fuzzy on iran, but the iranians are watching this one very carefully. They believe that he has a red lineheir nuclear program. And they're watching how he handles the syrian issue. Every day that goes by, where it seems as if there's indecision or some level of imbev lens, it's a signal to anyone who wants to test the united states. The question is, what are these options, the president made it clear as well, he's not talking about sending troops? I think you can talk about a no-fly zone, a safe haven. None of that is easy. It sounds great. A safe haven. But that involves taking out anti-aircraft. It involves kinetic action and a great deal of risk. I think, here, the comparison with iraq, president bush was looking for ways to go into iraq, president obama does not want to go into syria and is looking for ways not to go in there. So, I think that's one of the reasons why they're being so cautious here and military action, I think, you know, is the military always the option? What is the grandeur strategy here? Does it have to be a military option? What is the answer here? Part of the problem was, i think indecision has lessened the number of options we have available. You have al qaeda in large numbers, in the thousands, who are the best trained, best equipped and most -- and these are the opposition to the assad regime. What they have done is, they have attached themselves to the secular unit. That causes a huge problem for us. Here's the biggest problem, and why at least our leadership, this isn't about military intervention alone, how often do you have the arab league to show leadership with them in syria? Why? The conventional weapons, if they get loose from syria, and there are a bunch of them, it's incredibly destabilizing to the middle east and southern europe. That's why israel is concerned. Jordan is concerned. Turkey is concerned. Because they see that, in chaos, when he falls, you have hezbollah in the north trying to get their hands on both chemical and conventional weapons. You have al qaeda all over the country now. Even knocking on israel's doorstep in the south. Also looking to get better equipped through these stockpiles. It's horribly destabilizing. That's why they need to take a leadership role. It appears that the assad regime is perhaps stronger than saddam hussein's regime before the invasion? This is a resilient leader who's not going anywhere fast. Lot of people are surprised that he's lasted a long. I agree with mike on the issue of chemical weapons. That is severe. We have to know where they are. When assad eventually falls where these chemical weapons where these chemical weapons are going to go. Just like libya. Same situation here. We have to be together as a team. We can't make decisions because we're concerned about how iran or north korea looks at us. That's an issue, no question. But we're going to do what we need to do. We have unique weapons that no one else has. You talk about a no-fly zone, syria is very sophisticated. Libya is not sophisticated. We have a lot of issues on the table. We have to get it right. But I believe we have to do it as a team. What's the most effective escalation right now? For the americans? Yeah. I have to agree with martha, safe haven is a very -- define a safe haven? You're occupying part of another person's country. Let's not kid ousts. If yoi going to say, this is a safe haven, you're enforcing a no-fly zone over that haven. You're protecting those people. That means you have established your sovereignty in somebody else's country. That's a very serious thing. Obviously, the number one thing for americans to do is to make sure that these al qaeda forces don't get hold of any assad's chemical weapons. Look, president obama has said this. And president bush before him. The ultimate nightmare is the marriage of weapons of mass destruction and al qaeda. In syria, we're dangerously close to that happening. So we have to stop chemical weapons from being used. We have to stop them from falling intoven worse hands. On pushing that line in the small number -- the small amount of sarin apparently used, i think that's really pushing that line. 245 that's really testing how far assad will go. And I think the issue of the number of people who have been killed, which is fairly small, is an issue for the administration. We're talking about weapons of mass destruction. This wasn't mass destruction. So, I think that's a game assad is playing that makes it more difficult for president obama. What would he would be hoping, congresswoman, he tries a few chemical weapons, america and the rest of the world doesn't respond, and that demoralizes the opposition. How far would you go to support more military action? No country in the region wants boots on the ground. We had king abdullah come to the united states, what he was asking for was help with a political situation, russia is in a position to help pressure assad, and I think that he has to go. I don't think there's any question about that. But, I think that all of these options have to be looked at, because the day after, the day after assad, is the day that these chemical weapons could be at risk, that if we don't address the growing sectarian that is there, and help the people who are more moderate, we could be in bigger, even bigge trouble the day after. I want to move on to another topic. But to sum this all up, am i hearing all of you believe that military action has to be taken but far short of actually putting u.S. Boots on the ground? Nobody's calling for boots on the ground. That has to be clear. No boots on the ground. Remember, when we're talking about safe haven, equipment with the arab league goes a long way. They need specialize equipment that can take planes and helicopters out of the air so that you can train the syrian forces. Let me move to the issue of the boston marathon bombings. Are we any closer in figuring out this key central question, who radicalized these brothers and when? There are still persons of interest in the united states that the fbi would like to have conversations with. And the big unknown is still that six months, little over six months in russia, clearly, that is where they went from the process of radicalization to -- the older brother? The older brother. -- To violence. And there's a lot that we just don't know. That's why many say, the russians need to step up to the plate here and provide us better information. I think they have information that would be incredibly helpful but didn't provide it. Why didn't they provide it? The fsb is a hostile service to the fbi and cia. There's a cultural problem there between where the russians are and our folks. They sent a letter, didn't have a lot of information, and then three extra times after the investigation was closed, they said, do you have any more? They wouldn't do it. I believe they have more information and had information. One of things they had provided were these wiretaps of the brothers' mother, she seems to have been a key figure at least in encouraging the older brother in his more fervent worship. The fbi listening to those tapes, thought at the time, at least, it had more to do with internal russian problems. Not the united states of america. This is one of the most broad investigations that we have seen. Our law enforcement, intelligence community, doing a great job investigating and questioning all of the associations. Awe lack awlawi dead. Still have tapes. And then there's personal issues that the tamerlan may have had, that -- when you say you're closer, to pick on what the congresswoman was saying, do you know of any other persons of interest, any other people here in the united states who might have been a part of this process of radicalizing tamerlan? It's a domestic investigation and an international investigation. The fbi is really good with this. There are persons of interest in the united states. We're looking at phone calls before and after the bombings. This type of investigation. But I agree with mike, also, the real test about whether he was radicalized or not, is russia. We have to do a lot of investigation in russia. When he went over to russia and came back over things changed. This started in 2009 and 2010 when people started talking about a real change in the older brother. Then he went over to russia. Clearly something more happened in meeting with extremists and those wiretaps. You have to wonder why they wiretapped the mother to begin with. You don't have to go to russia, pakistan, afghanistan, to be radicalized. You can do it right in your bedroom on the internet. Osama bin laden is dead. His work and his ideas are carried on. And we have a very deep problem. You know, there are people who are being so radicalized at this moment in the united states of america, and we have to find a way to disrupt that radicalization process. And it's very difficult. Because it's all there on the internet. One of the things that we have seen, chairman, it's not enough to go to the inspire to build the bombs, the fbi has real suspicions, on the internet, they had to have help to get those bombs together? Yes, not only that, in the self-radicalization process, you still need outside affirmation. In every case that we have seen, to try to commit an act of violence, there was affirmation of their intent to commit jihad. I believe that happened in the united states. We still have persons of interest that we're working to find and identify and have conversations with. You're saying ten or fewer? I didn't say that. I didn't give a number. I do think there are persons of interest. In russia is where I think they went from, yes, I'm ready to jihad, here's how you conduct an act of violence with training. The threat to our country. The lone wolf. Under the radar. That was awlaki in yemen, he organized the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber. And this is what really concerns us -- this is what we're saying to the public, if there's not chatter and we can't get information through our intelligence, and we have the best intelligence in my opinion, then we need the help of the public to let us know. In this case, the fbi talked to him twice before he went to russia, I guess the big question is, congresswoman, why there were not further interviews after tamerlan came back from russia, if there was any break in the system that was it. that. The older brother tamerlan was on the databases, we had him information about them. Were the dots all followed to lead to a more investigation? I think that's worth looking at. Do you blame the fbi for dropping the ball here? I think it's still early to point blame. What they did in 2011, at the end of the day, they had no derogatory information, including all of the databases. All of the databases, including interviews. At some point, the fbi doesn't get to investigate americans, or people who are here legally just because they want to, what happened. Could they have done a secondary interview on the way back? There are questions there if we could improve the system a little bit. However, I think it's wrong to blame the fbi in 2011. At the end of the day, they finished the investigation. They did the digital footprint search, couldn't find anything. Then they asked the russians for help, nothing. Far be it for a journalist to excuse the behavior of a government agency, even if the law enforcement agencies have the constitutional power to investigate these suspicions, you don't have the personnel. And you're not really watching that area. I want to follow on the issue you raised just a minute ago, if the problem is self-radicalization here at home, relatively easy to do, what we do about it? This is where the muslim community has to come into play. It's moderates in the muslim community who have told law enforcement about radicals in their midst. And you know, you have this brightly-lit pathway on radicalization. There has to be a counterpathway and this is not something that the united states can do. There's nothing that a western power can do. An issue that's deeply embedded in islam. Not something that the committee can fix. Thank you all very much. Fantastic discussion.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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