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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Former CIA Director General David Petraeus Testify in Capitol Hill; Attacks between Israel and Gaza Continues
Aired November 16, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tom, thanks very much.
Good evening everyone. We begin tonight with breaking news, a lot of news for four explosions again, hurting Gaza in the last few minutes. And local media report a close of bombardment is renewed.
Tonight as many as 2,000 Israeli forces are positioned at the border positioned to launch a ground attack if that order comes. Israel's cabinet has authorized the call-ups of up to 75,000 reservists. A member of Israel's government who is not aligned with Prime Minister Netanyahu's coalition, said that the violence quote "seems to be beyond control," end quote.
The U.S. state department is calling it a very dangerous situation. President Obama talked to the leaders of Israel and Egypt today and we are told secretary of state Clinton has been working the phones trying to muster international pressure to diffuse the situation.
Now, over the last 24 hours, rockets and missiles have been flying both ways. That was an Israeli missile strike right there in Gaza City. Israel says it is aiming, of course, at terrorist targets. That's what it looks and sounds like from a distance. Here it is up close on CNN's Isha during an interview within Israeli and Palestinian who are in the thick of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me jump in there, Mohammed. When you hear him describe the situation where he is, what goes through your mind?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry. That is one thing. Carry on with your question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The Palestinian health minister says at least 30 people have been killed in Gaza, 300 wounded. Many of them children and women. He says we can't independently verify those numbers.
CNN's Sara Sidner has seen the missiles up close in Gaza City where she is reporting for us in very dangerous conditions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have to leave this area now because there are air strikes, and we can hear the planes and we've also seen rockets coming from a neighborhood just from the other side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, today, Egypt's prime minister, he is in the dark jacket visited a hospital in Gaza City to see the damage first hand. How Egypt will respond to the crisis is, of course, a big concern tonight and more on that in a moment.
Meantime, new evidence that Hamas has weapons powerful enough to reach farther into Israel. Two of its rockets hit just south of Jerusalem and others got close enough to Tel Aviv to set of air raid sirens. This video posted on the Al Quds brigade reported to show some of these longer range rockets that Hamas is using. Israel's U.N. ambassador called the targeting of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv an escalation by Hamas. Three Israelis have been killed since Wednesday. There's a lot to get to tonight.
We begin with Sara Sidner in Gaza city.
Sara, you've seen missile fire explosions earlier. What are you seeing and hearing now?
SIDNER: Just a few minutes ago another targeted air strike. We hear a loud blast and that's been happening throughout the day. This afternoon it was just like hell here, to be perfectly honest, for the residents here. There were blasts after blasts after blasts and when you looked up in the sky you also saw the telltale signs of rockets being sent from here to Israel. The entire sky at one point looked like it was crisscrossed with rockets, a very, very dangerous situation here in Gaza.
We also, Anderson, went to the hospital and the hospital, the doctors there and nurses there completely overwhelmed. Every 15 minutes people were coming in including men, women and children, Anderson.
COOPER: Is there any indication that Hamas will stop firing?
SIDNER: Look, we talked to one of the Hamas leaders and what they said is well, when Israel stops hitting them with air strikes and stops bombarding us, we will stop sending rockets into Israel. So, it's really kind of a catch 22, who is going to stop and when, Anderson.
COOPER: Sara, stand by, I want to bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman who is a tremendous man, obviously, has experience in the region. Tonight he is Israeli town of Ashkelon. It has been hit repeatedly by rocket fire, also Jodi Rudoren, the Jerusalem bureau chief for "The New York Times" is in Gaza city joins us by phone as well.
Ben, you are in southern Israel. What are you seeing and what are you hearing in Ashkelon?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we are seeing here is that the town is pretty much deserted, not a lot of people out and about although earlier we were next to a sushi restaurant where there were a fair amount of customers. We spoke to the mayor who talked about the difficulties of trying to manage a town of more than 100,000 people living under these conditions and we spoke to one resident here who interestingly enough said he was happy that rockets were fired from Gaza into near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He said finally. Other Israelis outside of this area around Gaza are getting a feel, getting a taste of what it's like to live under the threat of rockets.
So certainly here in Ashkelon you have real frustration that they simply cannot live a normal life with this constant threat of rockets coming in from Gaza.
COOPER: Ben, Israel is saying, they're doing targeted strikes into Gaza city. The Hamas rockets are obviously not so precision. Back in 2006, you visited one of those rocket-making factories in Gaza. What was it like and how has that changed how they're making weapons now?
WEDEMAN: Well, it's sort of something of an overstatement to call it a factory. It really was just a couple of rooms in the house in the Gaza suburb and it was really quite crude. They were mixing the propellant there on the scene and they were very worried that they could do something wrong in the mixture and the whole place could go up in smoke.
What we've seen since 2006 is a real change in the kind of weaponry that Hamas and the other organizations in Gaza have their hands on. Those rockets we were seeing in Gaza back in 2006 had a range of somewhere between six and 12 kilometers. Now we're seeing rockets that clearly are not homemade, so to speak, in Gaza.
The rockets that are being fired in the direction of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv clearly have been smuggled through the tunnels. These are probably soviet-era medium-range missiles. They don't have guidance systems so they're just sort of aimed in a certain direction, but certainly the range and the potential sort of harm that these missiles can cause has changed dramatically over the last six years.
Jodi, you're in Gaza city and you've driven around to numerous locations. Are you seeing any indication that Hamas or other groups there are expecting a ground operation?
JODI RUDOREN, JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via phone): It's a little difficult to tell. I certainly don't see people on the street necessarily preparing. I saw just late this afternoon -- I saw quite a number of people on the street. Many, many fewer than normally in Gaza city and more than Thursday when I got here for the first time.
COOPER: And Jodi -- go ahead.
RUDOREN: Going around helping each other and kids playing and it did not look like people were necessarily preparing for an operation. There were very long lines at gas stations today, for, you know, afraid that prices they're cut off, but other than that, I didn't see a lot of --
COOPER: What are you hearing on the radio there in Gaza city, Jodi?
RUDOREN: We're, you know, a couple of different kinds of things. Actually, I was going to mention that when my colleague was talking about the rockets, was there a lot of Hamas announcements today proudly taking credit for various operations and some truth and some denied by the Israeli military. And one thing they were talking about was a new kind of rocket called a homemade m-75. It was named after Ibrahim (INAUDIBLE), a senior Hamas political official assassinated in 2003 and 75 kilometers is supposedly the range of such missile and they said those are the missiles that went toward Jerusalem today.
COOPER: Ben, I'm going to talk to our colleague Reza in Egypt in a few minutes. What is your sense of the regional complications of this? I mean, could Egypt and other nations take steps to more actively show their support for the Palestinians?
WEDEMAN: Well, for instance, Egypt, Anderson, has to walk a very fine line. On the one hand, obviously, Mohammed Morsi coming from the Muslim brotherhood does express support for Hamas which is an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood. But at the same time, he has to be very careful when it comes to crossing any red lines regarding the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that dates back to the late 1970s. But certainly it's a huge change from just four years ago when the war was going on between Gaza and Israel. When President Hosni Mubarak, basically, it was well understood that he had no sympathy for Hamas because, of course, the Muslim brotherhood were his main political enemies and therefore, this situation is completely different. But Morsi and Egypt has to really tread carefully because many Egyptians have no desire whatsoever to get involved in any sort of conflict with Israel. Egyptians will tell you look, we fought war after war with Israel. We don't want to go down that path again.
COOPER: Ben Wedeman, stay safe. Jodi Rudoren as well and so Sara Sidner as well. Thank you all for your reporting.
Last night we aired this video showing a man being pulled from flames in Gaza. After the video aired we were pointed to an Israeli Web site that showed another image, this image, the man who was being dragged standing and conscious. The allegation made was that the man was playing for the cameras when he was soon dragged away and was not in fact wounded. That the video we aired came from the news agency Reuters and were feed to us did not include the image, obviously, of the man standing.
We asked Reuters about it today. They say they don't know the source of the image of the man standing or when that image was shot. They also said that they never saw or shot any similar image. So, the bottom line tonight, is we can't independently verify when that image of the man standing was taken, if it was taken before or after the other image was taken of the man being dragged away. We obviously will not be using either image again. This is not only a traditional military conflict and one being waged in the media as well, and our only goal in all of this is to report the truth, the facts on all fronts and it's why we've sent so many reporters and producers into the field.
Let us know what you think. Follow me on twitter @andersoncooper. Obviously, I'll be tweeting tonight.
Much more ahead, though, from Israel and Gaza. What is it like on the ground for the people living there and what with the stakes are for the entire region of Israel sends its ground forces into Gaza? That's next.
COOPER: We have more now in our breaking news tonight.
In Gaza tonight, the mood, as you can imagine, is very tense. Israeli troops are poisoned to border to begin a ground assault, if they get a go ahead. Now, since Wednesday, Israel has been pounding Gaza with missile strikes in retaliation for ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas. We got a notion of how intense the bombing in Gaza is during an interview yesterday.
Isha was talking to Palestinian man -- excuse me, in northern Gaza and Israeli man, just 50 minutes in Ashkelon. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Let me turn to Mohammed, when you hear him say that, when you hear him describe the situation where he is, what goes through your mind?
MOHAMMED SULAIMAN, PALESTINIAN: Sorry. There is one thing. So, carry on with your question.
SESAY: We're having -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Mohammed Sulaiman, his connection was actually cut off a moment or two later. He joins us now.
Mohammed, you gave our viewers on CNN international quite a scare. What's it been like today?
SULAIMAN (via phone): Yes. Today it's been actually a little bit calmer than last night which if I might say was one of the most terrible nights I had in my entire life. The neighborhood I was staying at which is on the Gaza Strip. It is called (INAUDIBLE). And it was bombed throughout the whole night. There were about 30 bombs which targeted my own area alone and with every bomb the whole building was shaking back and forth and most of the families staying in my area have moved out including my family who also left our place -- left our house and left to another place which they think might be relatively safer.
I also move at (INAUDIBLE) which I'm staying at the moment and it's also in the midst of the Gaza Strip. So the situation, as you know again, there is a bomb or there's retaliation shooting and there are Palestinian rockets being fired into Israel.
Now, the situation is completely dangerous here and it's not safer at all to be out in the street. Everyone is trying to avoid being in the street, but who people like my friends, we, what we are doing is that we are trying to be in an area where there is electricity, so we have to be constantly which is basically what makes -- what makes it difficult for us to stay away from danger.
COOPER: Mohammed Sulaiman, please be careful. I appreciate you speaking to us. Thank you.
A U.S. official said today, will be a quote "disastrous escalation" if Israel were to launch a ground assault in Gaza. A lot of people share that assessment. As we have said, the Middle East is a much different place today than four years ago when Israel and Gaza were locked in a struggle and all-out fighting.
Long time rulers in the region, some were American Allies, such as Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak were forced from power from popular revolt.
I want to bring in CNN Reza Sayah in Cairo. And here with me in New York, Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow of Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
Reza, the Egyptian prime minister met with Hamas today. The U.S. classified, obviously, Hamas as a terrorist organization. Should Washington be concerned about Israel's role in the conflict?
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think we should point that it's impossible to say what Egypt's role is at this point. It is not clear right now, this fiery whether that we are hearing from Egyptian leaders is just rhetoric or if there's something beyond that or preparing for more drastic measures. I think we'll find out in the days and weeks to come. But I think some people in Washington are listening to this explosive rhetoric and they are concerned.
But if you look carefully, there's not much happening beyond the rhetoric. I don't think Egypt has taken any steps. They can be described this, viewed as extreme, belligerent or radical departure from the past. They certainly haven't taken arms against Israel will and providing material support to Hamas. And they've come out and said loud and clear that we're going to abide by the Camp David accords, the peace accords between Egypt and Israel.
These are all early indications that President Morsi, the Egyptian president, has taken a calculated decision not to kick the Horn its nest, not to disrupt the alliances that are in place and it should come as a relief right now to Washington and Tel Aviv, but it could anger the Arab streak.
COOPER: Fouad, do you agree with that assessment. That it is rhetoric but at this point, not more than that.
FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, STANFORD UNIVERSITY'S HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well look, I think, this is really what we have. The Egyptians have tremendous attachment to the Palestinians and not all Arab states are enamored of the Palestinians the way the Egyptians are. The historic ties between Egypt and Gaza in particular and Egypt ruled Gaza for something like 19 years or so. So, of course, there is a sense of outrage in Egypt. And anyway, we should remember it was never good between Egypt and Israel even under Mubarak.
But what the Israelis now miss is someone like Omar Suleiman, you remember him, the head of intelligence and the vice president of Mubarak. He was tied to Israeli intelligence. That kind of proximity, that kind of affinity is gone. And what you have in Hamas now is the sense that there is an Islamist wage in the region. They look around and they see the Islamist government in Tunisia. They see in particular the Morsi government in Egypt and they look around and see Turkey hovering over the region with an Islamist government and they feel the wind is blowing their way.
COOPER: Do you think it is blowing their way?
AJAMI: Not at all, because in the end, the Hamas people would be fooling themselves and the Palestinians would pay the price for this kind of folly. Because the Arab world is not going to march to the tune of Hamas. The Saudi monarchy, if you listen to what's happening and what's coming out of Saudi Arabia, the only thing the Saudi monarch said was we need the rule of reason to prevail in the region.
So, is anyone going to risk the stability and security for Hamas not at all and the Egyptians, even the Egyptians patrons of Hamas, they really worry about their own country.
COOPER: They have lots of problems, economic problems.
AJAMI: Not only that, I mean, in the end, the Egyptians have fought four wars in Israel and the hardest thing is catastrophe. They don't want to go back to the past.
COOPER: Reza, we're protesting in Tahrir square today. What are people on the ground there telling you?
SAYAH: Well, we should point out that the protests were relatively small and nowhere near the protests we've seen in the past in Tahrir square and that could have something to do with the aggressive PR push by the Egyptian government to speak out against the Israeli government.
But the Egyptian people, they want a tougher stance by the Egyptian government against the Israeli government and some are calling for Egypt to back out of the Camp David peace accords and many are saying the world should focus the root cause of this and that is the occupation of Palestinian territories. Many Egyptians say the world and the media is losing focus now, that the conflict has started keeping track of who's firing what rocket. They say the world should keep the focus on the root cause and that is the occupation of Palestinian territories, Anderson.
COOPER: Reza Sayah, I appreciate you being on tonight. Fouad Ajami as well. Thank you very much.
A lot more to report tonight. One congressman is toning down the message on the Benghazi attack. This after testimony from CIA director David Petraeus or former CIA director, I should say, today on Capitol Hill.
Last night on the program, you saw Congressman Peter King accused the White House with of changing the talking points on the attack. Changing the talking points from one they got from the intelligence community to the ones they got from Susan Rice. The message today is much different.
We're "Keeping Them Honest" next.
COOPER: A man convicted of plotting to bomb the New York City subways, the sentence and what he said at the hearing when we continue.
COOPER: Now, tonight's "keeping them honest" report.
We want to point out, we are looking at facts her, not offering our opinion or trying to play favorites. We are not supporting Democrats or Republicans as they do on other cable channels. Our goal is simply real reporting, finding the facts, the truth there's still value in that.
Our focus tonight, the uproar over the talking points, the Benghazi consul attack and the toned down message from one congressman today. That Republican congressman Peter King, a member of the house intelligence committee.
Former CIA director David Petraeus testified about the attack before the committee today in a closed-door session and he did the same on the Senate side. The retired general was on the hill for five hours.
Now, according to Congressman King, Petraeus told them the attack on Benghazi on September 11th was an act of terrorism committed by Al Qaeda affiliates. Christopher Stevens, as you know, the U.S. Ambassador in Libya, and three other Americans were killed in that assault.
As we have been reporting, five days after the attack on the Sunday morning talk shows, there was no talk of a terrorist attack from Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. She kept her talking points and blamed the deadly attack on outrage over an anti-Muslim movie although she did say it was early in the days of the investigation and there was the possibility existed of an Al Qaeda affiliate group being involved in the escalation of violence. But again, she said, at that point, they had not been able to decide one way or the other who was involved.
Now, those talking points were first put out by the CIA and went through various agencies and even the White House before Ambassador Rice used them on September 16th. Last night on this program Congressman King put the blame squarely on the White House for changing the talking points. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The intelligence community said that Al Qaeda was involved. That was taken out by someone in the White House. The intelligence agency said --
COOPER: That's not what the DNI said, right?
KING: I'm telling you what he told us today and I'm telling you what was their reporting on 12th, 13th and 15th, there were intelligence estimates saying Al Qaeda was directly involved. The Al Qaeda affiliates were directly involved, somehow after that was prepared by the intelligence community that was taken out after it went to the White House and that was a very serious issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Congressman King last night on "360." Now, by the way, the Democratic congressman, we also have in the program, did not have that same perception from listening from the same briefing that day.
"Keeping Them Honest," this morning only 12 hours later. Mr. King seemed to change his tune. After his committee met with retired general Petraeus today, the congressman was no longer putting blame directly on the White House. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It is still not clear how the final talking points emerged. He said he went through a long process involving many agencies and the department of justice or the state department and no one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points other than to say the original talking points prepared by the CIA were different from the ones finally put out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right. So, Congressman King saying it is not clear how the talking points emerged and what agent said. As for his original claims the White House changed them, we ask them. They tell CNN, the White House and the state department offered one edit, changing consulate to quote "diplomatic facility for accuracy." Here is that talking point in question. What Ambassador Rice referenced on the Sunday morning talk shows, quote, "the currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex."
Now, as you can see, that one suggested White House edit that didn't even make it into the final version. Now, we invited Congressman King back on the program tonight and he declined due to a scheduling conflict.
Tonight there's another development on the talking points. Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins me right now.
So Dana, you heard Congressman King from last night and then from today, does he seem to be pointing a finger necessarily at the White House now, and he does think the talking points are altered, is he right?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he does still think they've been altered and you know, it turns out what he said today, does appear to be right, Anderson.
Late today, our national security producer, Pam Benson, was told that the original draft of the unclassified talking points to be sent to the intelligence committee did suggest that the Benghazi attack had links to Al Qaeda.
It was taken out, but the senior official with knowledge of this process says it was not taken out by the White House and it wasn't a White House decision, but a joint interagency decision.
They decided to tone it down and they replaced it with the term extremists and the reason we are told that that was done was not political.
But because the al Qaeda link at the time was still tenuous and they wanted to also protect the source of that information because it was so fresh.
COOPER: As my memory serves, Susan Rice I think who was on "Face the Nation", went on to say that the demonstrations, which were not demonstrations were hijacked by extremist groups.
She wasn't sure if it was al Qaeda affiliated or Libyan extremists or who it was and it was still in the early days of the investigation.
Did Petraeus' testimony today seem to clear up why Ambassador Rice went on the talk shows five days after the attacks and attributed the assault to a spontaneous protest that was hijacked?
BASH: I know this is going to shock you, but it cleared up confusion. The answer to that question is depends who you ask and it doesn't change the minds of Republicans already arguing that Susan Rice is not qualified to be secretary of state.
But what did come out of the closed door briefings today that I thought was interesting was that Petraeus told lawmakers that the reason the talking points that Rice got did not mention the terrorists element.
He said this in the briefing today of what I just told you is that the al Qaeda affiliates wasn't really clear that they were actually involved and more importantly, it was still classified and it could have compromised the intelligence sources at the time.
Another interesting thing that happened today is that Democrats politically tried much harder to explain the difference between classified information that government officials knew and unclassified information that people like Susan Rice and others could actually talk about publicly.
In fact, Democrats emerged much more aggressive and defending Rice and even the Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Diane Feinstein who sometimes much to the chagrin of fellow Democrats refuses to jump into the political fray.
She did today and really went after Republicans for in her words, pillaring Rice and assassinating her character -- Anderson.
COOPER: Interesting. Dana Bash, appreciate your reporting as well. Some more heated words on the Benghazi attack. In a congressional hearing, Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican from California, said President Obama lied to the American people. My interview with the congressman next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You're saying that the director of national intelligence is lying about what the intelligence was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, you're saying that. Have I used the word lie with the director of national intelligence? That's what you're saying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's your conclusion and your conclusion is based on what you're trying to come to that conclusion. Everybody else in this country --
COOPER: Sir, you can continue shouting me down as much as possible and not let me complete a sentence if that's what you want to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Bad news for fans of Twinkies, Devil Dogs, Wonder Bread and other iconic products made by Hostess. We'll tell you why, coming up.
COOPER: More fallout from the Benghazi attack. As we mentioned earlier, former CIA Director David Petraeus testified in closed-door sessions today before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.
According to member, Petraeus said the deadly assault on September 11th was the work of al Qaeda affiliates. Now other briefings were held yesterday involving other insiders and experts.
And during one, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who was very clear on who he was blaming for the lingering questions in Benghazi eight weeks later. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: What is clear is that this administration, including the president himself has intentionally misinformed, read that, lied to the American people in the aftermath of this tragedy.
Now the President Obama has the gall to float the name as possible secretary of state. The name of the person who is the actual vehicle used to misinform the American people during this crisis and the dishonesty reflected in all of this is a little bit breathtaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher directing its anger obviously at President Obama and outraged at the possibility the president might nominate Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with lingering questions over her talking points on the attack.
I spoke with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher earlier, listen.
COOPER: California Congressman, appreciate you being with us. You said that President Obama lied to the American people in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks. What are you saying he lied about and what evidence do you actually have that he lied?
ROHRABACHER: We have all kinds, and everybody in the country heard him and people speaking for him, but the president as well, talking about movie rage as being by a crowd that got out of control and killed our ambassador and three other diplomatic personnel.
When he spoke before the United Nations over and over again making reference to movie rage, and this is to everyone who was listening to the show tonight and they can remember that. As he was saying that he knew that was not true.
COOPER: What you're saying is factually not correct. I mean, the spokesman for the director of national intelligence has said publicly that after the attack there were multiple streams of information and they have information that led the agency to --
ROHRABACHER: Come on. I worked in the White House, too. And I'm glad --
COOPER: Are they lying?
ROHRABACHER: No, what I'm telling you is the director of national intelligence is using the words that can give a little out -- to maybe out to the president, but the fact is --
COOPER: Is General Petraeus lying as well?
ROHRABACHER: Well, General Petraeus I understood announced today that they knew from -- from the first minute --
COOPER: But that's not what he's testified to on Capitol Hill, two days after the attack.
ROHRABACHER: I haven't heard his testimony today, but --
COOPER: But two days after the attack you know he testified.
ROHRABACHER: I understand that they testified today is that they knew right away. Also, we have had several -- look, anybody out there who thinks there is a movie from the first minute of the attack indicating that there was no -- there's no film of demonstrators outside of the consulate.
This was a major attack. Last night, I talked to the head of the intelligence committee here in Congress and he just confirmed within a few minutes they knew this was a terrorist attack.
If he knew that and the video showed that, that was transmitted immediately to the White House. That's what -- I worked in the White House and I know that's what happens. You have a situation room, which has kept up to the second on information like this.
COOPER: But sir, what you're alleging though, is factually it goes against the facts as have been presented by the director of intelligence and even General Petraeus who said --
ROHRABACHER: No, you don't have the packs of what their position is because apparently Petraeus
COOPER: Right, you weren't there either. You weren't in the room today so you're getting second dhand information.
ROHRABACHER: No, I'm not getting second hand information. I'm getting firsthand information from the co-chairman of the Intelligence Committee who was also gone on the record saying within a very short period of time of when the attacks started they knew it wasn't a demonstration.
No, no, they knew, meaning they. It was being broadcast live to the intelligence operations in Washington, D.C. They knew and don't tell me they wouldn't have transferred that directly to the situation room.
COOPER: I'm trying to understand the logic of what you're saying. You're saying that the director of national intelligence is lying about what the intelligence was.
ROHRABACHER: No, no. You're saying that. Have I used the word lying with the director of national intelligence? That's what you're saying. That's your conclusion and your conclusion is based on what you're trying to come to that conclusion. Everybody else in this country --
COOPER: But sir, you can continue to shout me down -- you can shout me down as much as you want, but I'm telling you the director --
ROHRABACHER: No, you can repeat the national director security and repeat that a dozen times and that does not negate what the American people know now and you're trying to say the president of the United States was totally out of touch with the fact that his people have been murdered by radical Islamic terrorists and that he was out of touch with that.
No, he wasn't out of touch with that. I've worked in the White House. I know what the -- what the procedures are. The president was notified right away as to what this was going on.
COOPER: I understand your suspicions on the line. I'm just wondering the logic behind why public official Susan Rice, General Petraeus and the president would lie knowing full well that the truth would ultimately come out.
So the alternate explanation is they were given wrong intelligence and they would have been more suspicious of that intelligence and perhaps they spun the intelligence they were given, but couldn't it just be a matter of wrong intelligence as we've seen before?
ROHRABACHER: I think it is less likely that there is incompetence at the CIA and incompetence at the National Security Council that they -- that they ended up giving the president of the United States false information.
I think there is less likelihood of that than if the president was in battle mode and in the middle of a campaign and felt that any type of things that made it look like the Islamic threat, the radical -- the radical Islamic threat is still upon us would be harmful to him politically.
So I can't say that was his motive. I don't know what was going on in his head, but it's not likely that the national Security Council and the CIA didn't do their job, thus the president wasn't informed.
COOPER: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: We've got breaking news. We're going to talk about that in a moment with Dana Bash and Fran Townsend. But back to our breaking news, new explosions happening right now in Gaza. Let's go to Sara Sidner. Sara, what are you hearing? Sara, it's Anderson Cooper. You're on the air, what are you hearing?
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We just saw directly behind us what looked at a ball of fire that was a ball of spark, eventually. I'll move out of the shot here. It was an absolutely bone-rattling blast and we all fell to the floor.
What we now know is that we think that the building that it hit was perhaps a police headquarters that used to be the office where you would pick up your passport in years past, but this has been the closest strike to us that we've seen.
We're not quite sure because we did not hear the telltale signs of an air strike so we're not exactly sure what went on in there, but man, was there a couple of very, very strong blasts and then we saw a ball of fire coming up.
And it also looked like there were sparks and so that might indicate that there were perhaps some explosives or something inside whatever building was hit and we're also hearing the sounds of drones overhead.
It sounds almost like a lawn mower, Anderson, and you can hear those every now and then and we've seen the drones that the Israeli military uses ourselves. I was there being looking at what they can do.
And it is absolutely amazing how clear of a picture that those drones can get and so that speaks to targeted air strikes. They're looking for specific places and just now they hit two pretty hard -- Anderson.
COOPER: Sara, you've been around in Gaza. How precise are these strikes? You talk about the use of drones that obviously points to a level of precision that Hamas does not have, but in terms of the damage you've seen how precise are the strikes?
Sara, I'm not sure if you can hear me anymore. How precise are these strikes that you've seen? We've obviously lost contact with Sara Sidner and we'll try to re-establish contact with her. We'll be right back
COOPER: I want to go back to the Benghazi attack and dig deeper on this. Moments ago, we had an interview with California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. He said President Obama lied to the American people about the deadly assault.
Back with us now is senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash and Fran Townsend, CNN national security contributor, a member of the CIA's External Advisory Committee and Fran recently visited Libya with her employer, Mike Andrews.
So Fran, you've been critical of how the administration has handled the situation, but isn't it an overreach for Congressman Rohrabacher to say the president is lying because when I kept asking him for actual evidence he didn't really seem to have any.
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: He didn't seem to let you talk, Anderson. You could barely get the question out. I mean, look, I think that is a stretch. I'm not prepared to say that the president is lying.
I don't think the White House or the administration handled the protection of the consulate running up to the attack very well or the aftermath of it.
I don't think they explained it very well to the American people, but I don't think we can say at least at this point, that we have evidence that the president lied. It's interesting and the president was aware very early on that there was this possibility that this actually had been a terrorist attack.
I go back to his statement in the Rose Garden and Secretary Clinton was standing next to him and he talked about the protests and he talked about the attack and the tragedy and he made the sort of very general what seemed like a veiled reference to terrorism.
But it was conveniently there, and I think there was a reason it was there. It was there because the president understood while he believed at the time that it was a protest. That it was possible that later intelligence as they understood what happened on the ground later that it might, in fact, be extremists.
We know today from what we are understanding that General Petraeus said behind closed doors that he believed from the first day. So there was clearly some indication early on that this was, in fact, a terrorist attack and they were sorting through it.
COOPER: Yes, it sounds like there were multiple strains of intelligence and it took a while to sort through and verify and throw out as it often does. Ambassador Rice, she's been skewered by some Republicans like Congressman Rohrabacher, but what I just don't understand is even -- I looked at her comments on "Face the Nation" on Sunday after the attack.
And she said there was this demonstration that was based on the video, reaction to it and reaction to Cairo she did say it was hijacked by Libyan extremists or al Qaeda-affiliated groups and did you get a sense that it was Congressman Rohrabacher and had changed their thinking.
BASH: You know, I think at this point, the Republicans who were determined to not allow her to be the secretary of state if that is what the president chooses. They've not changed their minds.
We heard that was Republicans to go on the attack against Ambassador Rice was not just that she talked about protests and didn't talk about terrorism in those Sunday shows five days after the attack.
But that she took it a step further and the vice chair of the intelligence committee, and she tries to be nonpartisan and did go out of his way, and what concerns him is that she says in that same interview that al Qaeda has been decimated by the Obama administration.
When even if she couldn't talk about because it was classified she knew that there was a possibility based on the classified information that al Qaeda at, at least, an affiliate was very much involved with that.
And that is why part of the reason why they say that they're continuing to blame this on politics and not as extreme as what we heard from Dana Rohrabacher.
COOPER: And Fran, just very quickly. We only have a couple of seconds left. What is your assessment of Rice's performance on the Sunday talk shows?
TOWNSEND: Well, look I think what we know is that the talking points were not entirely accurate for the reasons they were classified and I think, look, she made the sound much clearer than the talking points than she was probably given.
COOPER: All right, Dana Bash, Fran Townsend, appreciate it. Coming up with more ahead. We'll be right back. The "Ridiculous" actually is up next.
COOPER: Time now for the "Ridiculist." And tonight we're adding this goat. Take a good look because this is the face that will haunt your dreams. It's a pet goat and his name is Voldemort. He lives in Smithfield, Utah.
And somehow he got loose from his chain and sort of terrorized a 14-year-old named Jackson who was minding his own business doing his paper route one morning.
It was dark so at first Jackson thought it was a dog, but that is certainly no dog. That is a goat, a crazy-eyed, scraggly, wild- haired, possibly demonic goat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was dark and I saw this, like, figure and then it made a weird noise kind of like a grunting noise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Seriously, what is wrong with that goat? Can we see that part again, please?
If there are easily frightened children watching or people with any kind of heart trouble or anxiety disorders you might want to look away because I think we'll have to see that slowed down.
Just imagine you're 14 years old. You're on your bike and trying to do your paper route and that thing appears out of nowhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I look over and I thought what the heck is that? It just freaked me out when it stood up on its back legs around me and pulled me off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It wrapped his legs around the guy. At this point, our story, Jackson, who I think we can all agree is a brave and valiant paper boy, ran from said goat and climbed up a tree where he sat for more than an hour locked in a staring contest with that creepy goat.
I've seen a lot of creepy goats on YouTube like this one. But for my money, the darker goat is even creepier and poor Jackson was in a standoff, a battle of wills with this face and then the police got involved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hadn't returned from a paper route and was an hour and a half overdue. He had his paper bag sitting in the tree where he was and he was half way up the tree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So everything turned out fine. No one got hurt and the goat is back home, but Jackson is taking some ribbing from his friends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody was, like, goat boy. Hi, guys. They're, like, why are you scared of goats and I'm, like, that was a freaky goat and I think it was possessed or something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jackson, you deserve some kind of a medal, frankly, I think I'll have nightmares the rest of my life just from the video, locked in a battle of wills with that goat. I guess the good news is that we now have an official mascot of the "Ridiculist."
That does it for us. We'll see you again one hour from now, all the latest on the situation in Israel and on Gaza City. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.