Roundtable I: Cyber Security, Syria, and Iran

Rep. Mike Rogers, Rep. Eliot Engel, George Will, and Christiane Amanpour.
24:22 | 02/24/13

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Transcript for Roundtable I: Cyber Security, Syria, and Iran
Good morning and welcome to "this week." A new cliff is here. These cuts are not smart. It's a stupid way to govern. Across-the-board spending cuts, just five days away. This is going to have a real impact. The president is making stuff up. Will they hit too hard? Are the warnings too hyped? What will this stalemate really mean for you and your family? Plus, chinese hackers targeting america. This isn't movie stuff. Joe biden targets the nra. You don't need an ar-15. And the oscars hit washington. We take on all of the week's politics right now. Hello again. 18 months aghe white house and congress agreed to a doomsday plan across-the-board spending cuts. Forcing washington to find a better fix to our budget mess. No dice. No last-minute deal no matter what. That sequester will start on friday. The battle over what it means has already begun. We'll debate that on our powerhouse roundtable. But first, some facts. Pentagon will take the biggest hit from the cuts. President obama warned of dire consequences yesterday. Tse cuts has forced the navy to delay the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the persian gulf. Affecting our ability to respond to threats in an unstable part of the world. Just this week, the pentagon announced that, if these cuts go through, almost 800,000 defense employees, the equivalent of every person in miami and cleveland combined, will be forced to take an unpaid leave. And with that, let's take the debate to our first roundtable. Headlined be I the chairman of the house intelligence committee, mike rogers of michigan. Lead democrat on the house foreign affairs committee eric engel and our own george will and christiane amanpour. The impact on the national security, there is no doubt. There's some misnomers. Only 2 cents on the dollar over the whole federal budget. That's in seven months and highlighted, put at least most of the burden on the defense department. That's going to have an impact. That's a 13% cut. The best way to get through this, I mean, we can point fingers. The best way to do this is to allow flexibility. If you allow flexibility -- you don't have to shut down -- I wanted to bring that to congressman engel. I think the sequester was a stupid thing. I voted against it when it first time it came up. It's really a ridiculous thing to do. The fact is, we need to do things that are smart, not take a meat cleaver and just cut. Should the white house accept this call from the republicans in congress where to hit with the cuts? I think congress should sit down and avoid the sequester and if the sequester kicks in, for a week or go, we should then fix it. The navy insists they really had no choice than to delay the deployment of the aircraft carrier. If so, if they have no wiggle room at all, that suggests to me that flexibility is what the administration does not want them to have. Because they want to maximize the pain. They want disruptions in air travel and all of the rest, to push pressure on republican to unravel the sequester. Congressman rogers, right now, at least, within a month, you're going to have these furloughs on the civilian If we have flexibility, there's a big difference between a sailor on the eisenhower out in the medittarean and the travel coordinator at the epa. You can't treat them the same and the way this is structured it treats everyone the same. You can't do that. If you give them the flexibility, they can make that determination. We have intelligence operations that could get slowed down or stopped. That's a problem. But if you sit down and talk to these folks and say, if you had the flexibility, can you find 2 cents on the dollar on efficiencies other than cutting the bones? George, it's here we go again. Government by crisis. Lurching from left to right. The military in the united states is in play. It's not just the aircraft carrier and intelligence and the navy, it is also flight hours. They're having to cut down what the air force personnel can do. What pilots can do. And even deployments for troops overseas, unable to sort of, perhaps transfer and transfer personnel out there. People would have to have longer deployments. The whole thing doesn't make sense when viewed from outside. But now, another big headline, from this week, we saw a report coming out, detailing chinese attacks, chinese military cyberattacks on u.S. Targets, 140 targets. Look at this is from the "new york times." Its focus is on companies involved in the critical infrastructure of the united states. According to security researchers one target was a of oil and gas pipelines in north america. Serious threat over several years. It drew the attention of the former head of the cia. My father said quit whining, defend yourself after I had gotten into a fight. There are a lots of way we can make this relation less comfortable to them. If this is important, then you got to start taking some actions. Congressman rogers, you say that this is a war we're losing? We are losing. 141 targets pales in comparison. That's probably every day. We get every single day by a series of attacks. Everything from criminals trying to get into your bank account to steal your identity to nations. You believe that chinese -- the chinese government, the chinese military is behind this? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. They use their military to steal intellectual property from american businesses and european businesses, repurpose it, and compete in the international market against the united states. It's unprecedented. This has never happened in the history of the world, where one nation steals the intellectual property to repurpose to illegally compete against the country. And I'll tell you, it's bad as i have ever seen it. It's getting worse, why, there's no consequence for it. The "new york times" report that quoted this troop, traced this latest outbreak of cyber war fair to building this shanghai. They traced it to the street. That's a building, a unit owned by the pla. Companies have been unwilling to talk about this. That is changing now? It is. They're dealing with a very difficult, frankly a gangster regime in china right now. Nobody wants to make them unhappy. George, last june, david sanger in the "new york times" ran a story from his first months in office, president obama secretly ordered sophisticated attacks of computer attacks that ran iran's nuclear enrichment facilities. We have participated in cyber sabotage. That's what the chinese are saying. And it turns out, what if china is thinking, we can compete with the united states or maybe we can just learn how to disable the massive infrastructure of our potential ally or adversary? This is an important difference. The united states does not participate, use its military intelligence services for economic espionage, we do not do that. It's prohibited. Now, we -- to say as the chair of the intelligence mitt tee, it would be crazy to say that we don't participate in espionage. It's a long-standing tradition between nations. But this is very, very different. I think this gets to a fundamental relationship with the chinese. I think we have to make it very clear to them, that this cannot be business as usual. If they're going to continue to do this, there's a price to pay. I was just in beijing with the chairman of the foreign affairs committee. We raised this with the chinese -- top chinese officials, they let it roll off their back. They don't admit to it. Is the white house pressuring hard enough? Well, I think they can do it more. I think they're doing it hard enough. I think they're making it clear. But I think there has to be a fundamental stand that we need to take with the chinese. It can't be business as usual. So, what is the way to fight back? Sanctions? What? I argue you need to start indicting bad actors. You need to start impacting individuals' abilities who are participating in this activity in china. To get visas, their families to get visas. It needs to be a direct bilateral discussion. Put one, two, and three. It's that serious. We have a well-known company who was hacked, had their blueprint stolen, if you will, estimates 125,000 manufacturing jobs lost. It could be cyber pearl harbor. But again, there's an intellectual blank slate right now on which the international committee meets to write rules. And laws. David sanger last june, it appears to be the first time that the united states has repeatedly used cyber weapons to cripple another country's infrastructure. I take your point, it's different. You can't believe everything you read in the press, george. Are you saying that he's not? I would be very cautious about ascribing authorship. To that particular event. Would there be anything wrong if united states was trying to sabotage the iran's nuclear program? Those kind of things happen. Here's the difference, if someone comes into your office and steals your sensitive intellectual property and walks out the door with it, that's a crime. What difference does it make if it do it in person or I do it through my computer? There shouldn't be any difference. I'm arguing let's start the indictment process to send a message to china that you cannot -- if you want to be an international player, you can't act like a thief in the night. One more question on this, you're talking about economic espione. How serious in the future is the threat? Hug here's the scary part of this, it's already part of military planning for the russians. For the chinese. And here's where it gets interesting. Now, the iranians. There's a company in saudi arabia, a very shisticated attack, it basically killed 30,000 machines, meaning you're not going to reboot that computer of yours. It manipulated data, changed data. And destroyed data. Very, very serious to the functioning of that company. Now, here in the united states, it's been ascribed to the iranians that they were probing our financial institutions. It's called a denial of service attack. It's very low on the sophistication scale. They're probing, looking for vulnerabilities. They're already looking to disrupt. China would be a rational actor. Wouldn't pay for them to use a military-style attack. Same with the russians. The regimes of deterrents here. Deterred with nuclear forces -- you can. If you're going to punch your neighbor in the nose, best to hit the weight room for a couple of months. We're not ready yet? We're not ready. We're completely vulnerable. Another subject. Syria, the situation seemed to have deteriorated. We talked to terry moran earlier this morning about the options the u.S. Has right now. George, we just got out of syria. And the first thing to say is, it looks like the situation there is going to go from worse to worst. You got rising sectarian hatred. Now, staking their claim to the future in syria, massive war crimes, rising violence and criminality, and we could find no evidence that bashar assad or his army is about to break. Quite the contrary. They wanted to change the government. Now given the chaos, they don't. The united states has a choice, armed the rebels, engage deeply in a dangerous war for this region or broker a peace, probably with russia. Give the syrian people an opportunity to determine their future and at least in the first stages, assad's likely to be a part of that process. Congressman engel, is that the choice? I think it is. I think it's time to armed the rebels. I think the free syria army needs help. We know who they are. It's time that we make that move. I spoke to white house officials about this. They make two arguments against arming the rebels. One, you don't want them to have shoulder-fire missiles because of the threat to aircraft. Number two, the opposition is getting what it needs right now from the gulf states. Well, shoulder-fired weapons, I'm not talking about that. I certainly think there are other things that we can use to get to them. It's never the right time. Always a time that could be better. I think we run the risk of seeing assad hang on for a long time. He's a bad player. Back in 1979, when his father was in power, countries that aid and abet terrorism, syria was a chartered member of that list. In 2004, I wrote a accountability act on syria, with sanctions on syria. This has been a regime that governs with an iron fist. They murdered tens of thousands of their own people. There's almost 1 million displaced. It has the potential to disrupt other countries like jordan, all around, and I think it's time that the united states takes a fair stand by arming the rebels. You agree? The best that we can hope for now is the best of the worst outcome. The united states doesn't have credibility with the opposition now. So, any diplomatic-negotiated settlement here, the united states can't play an important role, because they don't have the faith and confidence of the opposition. Clearly, russia is playing a game here that could be helpful. Here's what I think we should do, I think we need the jordanians, the turks are all putting weapons systems in to syria to aid the opposition. The islamists have attached themselves to most of the secular units. Almost every unit, now, has islamist as some of their main fighters. They need them and count on them for the fight. That's a huge problem for the united states. We have all of those weapons systems, including conventional weapons, that will awash the lemont across the middle east. We need to take a leadership in this. With all of the arab league. I would have a no-fly zone in the north. Safe zone in the north. And coordinate all of the weapons systems that are going in so that at least we have the credibility for negotiated settlement. Congressman, talking about credibility, secretary kerry is going over this week to middle east. That's true. In rome, where the opposition is boycotting because of what they say is, an unacceptable response from the u.S. To syria. So much is complicated. This has been two years now. And all of the reasons for not intervening have actually come true for not intervening. All of the things that you just outlined. Friends around the united states, destabilize the massive amount of weapons that could be loose. Happening in libya, africa, with al qaeda popping up. Beyond that, do we want to see syria become somalia? Do we not remember what somalia was for the united states? And that whole region. The options as far as I can see is the u.S. Does what you're suggesting. Tries to have skin in the game. Tries to have some credibility on the ground, some influence on the ground. Turns a war into a shorter war rather than a longer war in somalia. Well, let me try to disrupt the harmony. We have two objections. Objectives. The humanitarian objective of economizing violence. And the strategic objective of controlling the outcome. No analogy is perfect. Going back to the spanish civil war that began in 1936, by the time it got in full-blown proportions, there was no happy choice. We're going to be the communist and we're going to control spain or we're going to be franco and going to control spain. You say congressman, we know who the rebels are. How do we know? We know, we know the free army. Let me say one thing, it's a blow to iran if assad falls. Assad has been the ally of iran and hezbollah, terrorist organization, by the way, the europeans should designate hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Iran would be dealt a blow. They're fighting. They have their shoulders in syria. Hezbollah is fighting in syria. This would be a strategic vote to iran. If assad falls. Our david muir spent a week in iran, in tehran, around the country, took a look at how hard these international sanctions are hitting. George, good morning. There's really no question that the economic sanctions, the tightening sanctions led by the u.S. Are truly felt here in iran. So manle talked about the prices going up dramatically here. Inflation at rates 40% in some places. There's no question that people are feeling these sanctions. The question is whether or not the leadership is feeling it and whether they're going to do anything about it? All of that alluding to the economic sanctions. People here feeling it. Whether or not that's going to press leaders next week is the big question this morning, george. That's the question, christiane. The president ahmadinejad conceded that it's been a very difficult year. Yeah, it's been catastrophic. Just talking to people in iran it's been catastrophic for the people. It's less affected the regime and what it has done is militarized iran. In other words, now, everything is view in the parameter of war. The revolutionary guard in iran is now taking on another excuse for taking over the press. I think what's interesting is, there was a very interesting conversation with the iranian ambassador here, who said that we can have talks, we don't want to with a gun to our heads. We don't have red lines. Except that the united states has to accept our rights under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. The question is, will the congress, will the political fear here in the united states, allow real diplomacy? Have a real diplomatic negotiation. Congressman, the fear that these talks are just a stalling tactic? Well, the most productive thing that we have gotten with talks is an agreement with more talks. That stalling, that time has cost us in their development of their nuclear weapons program. They just recently put in more sophisticated centrifuges. To spin up highly enriched uranium. At the same time, they agreed to limit that. Here's the problem, think about the consequence of a nuclear iran, this isn't france, this isn't great britain, this isn't rational actors. These folks have committed acts of terror. They killed 600 u.S. Soldiers in iraq and afghanistan by introducing weapons systems and training. Bulgaria is now going to the eu to try to get at least some tougher sanctions on hezbollah through iran because of their attempt -- they attempted to kill the saudi ambassador in washing washington, d.C. If the president means what he has said repeatedly and clearly, nuclear iran means war with the united states. The president has said that he does not endorse containment of iran. They will not have, he said, nuclear weapons. If they cross that threshold, there must be some red line somewhere that means war with iran. I mean, there are other options to war. I think the worst possible scenario would be a nuclear-armed iran, I think that has to be stopped. By any and all measures. Which the president has pledged to do. Which he has. I think we need to work in consultation with our european allies to make sure that that doesn't happen. They have been bad players straight-on. They're not negotiating in my opinion in good faith. I think we have to understand that. The real question is, what to do? We can talk about this until we're blue in the face. Which we have done for decades now. The most painful sanctions imposed on iran are under way right now. As you can see, they're not affecting their desire to continue to enrich. The question is, what does one do? You say irrational. This is not an argument, it's really -- in terms of military conflict with the united states, that isn't being rational, that's being sane. They have committed act of terrorism around the world is not rational. The fact they're trying to get after our financial institutions through cyber attacks. The real issue is what does one do? We have to move on. Very quick question, yes or no, will there be a military conflict with iran this year or do you believe there's another way to block their program? I think there's other ways to block their program. Congressman, thank you. Christiane, you'll stick around for our web extra.

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

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