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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Conflict in Israel Escalates; Petraeus Testifies
Aired November 16, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.
And we begin tonight with breaking news, explosions again heard this Gaza and local media reporting -- quote -- "The bombardment is renewed." Tonight, as many as 2,000 Israeli forces are positioned at the border, poised to launch a ground attack if the 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 the violence "seems it is beyond control." The U.S. State Department is calling it a very dangerous situation. President Obama talked to the leaders of Israel and Egypt and we are told Secretary of State Clinton has been working the phones trying to muster international pressure to defuse the situation.
And 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. And that's what it looks and sounds like from a distance. Here it is up close on CNN's air during an interview with an Israeli and a Palestinian who are in the thick of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me jump in there, Mohammed. When you hear Hisham (ph) say that, when you hear him describe the situation where he is, what goes through your mind?
MOHAMMED SULAIMAN, GAZA: 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 INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have to leave this area now because there are airstrikes, and we can hear the planes and we are also seeing rockets coming from a neighborhood just from the other side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, today, Egypt's prime minister visited a hospital in Gaza City to see the damage firsthand. How Egypt will respond to the crisis is of course a big concern tonight and more on that in a moment.
Meantime, new evidence today 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 off air raid sirens. This video posted on the Web site of Al-Quds Brigade purported to show some of these longer-range rockets 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.
And there's a lot to get to and we begin with our Sara Sidner in Gaza City.
Sara, you have seen, you have heard missile fire, explosions earlier. What are you seeing and hearing now?
SIDNER: Just a few minutes ago, another targeted airstrike. We could 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 the 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 when Israel stops hitting them with airstrikes and stops bombarding us, we will stop sending rockets into Israel. 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 has a tremendous amount obviously of experience in the region. Tonight he is in the Israeli town of Ashkelon that has been hit repeatedly by rocket fire. And also Jodi Rudoren, the Jerusalem bureau chief for "The New York Times" is in Gaza City and joins us by phone as well.
Ben, you're 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 even though earlier we were next to one 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 are 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 -- it's something of an overstatement to call it a factory. It really was just a couple of rooms in a house in a Gaza suburb.
And it was really quite crude. They were mixing the propellant there on the scene and they were very worried they could do something wrong in the mixture and the whole place would go up in smoke. What we have 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 harm that these missiles can cause has changed dramatically over the last six years.
Jodi, you're in Gaza City and you have driven around to numerous locations. Are you seeing any indication that Hamas or other groups there are expecting a ground operation?
JODI RUDOREN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": 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 actually quite a number of people on the street, many, many fewer than normally in Gaza City, but also more than Thursday when I got here for the first time.
COOPER: Go ahead.
RUDOREN: Going around, helping each other, some kids playing, and it did not look like people were necessarily preparing for an operation. There were very long lines at gas stations today, people afraid that the supplies could cut off, but other than that, I didn't see a lot of...
COOPER: What are you hearing on the radio there, on the television there in Gaza City, Jodi?
RUDOREN: You know, a couple of different kinds of things. Actually, I was going to mention that when my colleague was talking about the rockets, there was a lot of Hamas announcements today proudly taking credit for various operations, some true, some denied by the Israeli military.
And one thing they were talking about was a new kind of rocket they call the homemade M-75. It's named after Ibrahim Makadmeh, who was a senior Hamas military and political official assassinated in 2003. And 75 kilometers is the supposed range of such a missile and they said those are the missiles that went toward Jerusalem today.
COOPER: Ben, I'm going to talk to our colleague Reza Sayah in Egypt in a few minutes, but what is your sense of the regional complications of this? 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 feel compelled to express support for Hamas which of course 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 and we don't want to go down that path again.
COOPER: Ben Wedeman, stay safe, Jodi Rudoren as well, 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 seen dragged away and was not in fact wounded.
The video we aired came from the news agency Reuters and their feed to us did not include the image 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 they never saw or shot any similar image. The bottom line is we can't independently verify when that image of the man standing was taken there you see at the bottom of your screen, whether it was taken before or after the other image was taken of the man being dragged away.
We obviously will not be using either of these images again. This is not only a traditional military conflict, but one that is being waged in the media as well. And our only goal as always is to report the truth, the facts on all fronts and it's why we have sent so many of our reports and producers into the field.
Let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting in the hour ahead.
We have got much more ahead from Israel and Gaza, what is it like on the ground for the people living there and what the stakes are for the entire region if Israel sends its ground forces into Gaza. That's next.
COOPER: More now on our breaking news tonight. In Gaza tonight, the mood as you can imagine is very tense. Israeli troops are poised at the border to begin a ground assault if they get a go-ahead.
Since Wednesday, Israel has been pounding Gaza with missile strikes in retaliation for ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas. We got a sense of how intense the bombing in Gaza is during an interview yesterday. Isha was talking to a Palestinian man in northern Gaza and an Israeli man just 15 minutes in Ashkelon. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Let me jump in there, Mohammed. When you hear Hisham (ph) say that, when you hear him describe the situation where he is, what goes through your mind?
SULAIMAN: Sorry. That is one thing. Carry on with your question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: 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 obviously quite a scare. What's it been like today?
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's 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, I could feel the whole building 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 moved to another place which they think might be relatively safer.
I also moved to a friend's place, which I am staying at, at the moment. And it's also in the midst of the Gaza Strip. So the situation, every now and then, there is a bomb from some Israeli warplane or there's some (INAUDIBLE) but also there are Palestinian rockets which are being fired into Israel.
The situation is completely dangerous here. And it's not safe at all to be out on the street. Everyone is trying to avoid being in the streets, but for people like me and my friends, what are doing is that we're trying to be in an area where there is electricity, and Internet access, so we have to be on the move 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 talking to us tonight. Thank you.
A U.S. official said today it would be a "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, in all-out fighting.
Longtime rulers in the region, some who were American allies, such as Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak, were forced from power by popular revolt.
I want to bring in CNN's Reza Sayah in Cairo. And here with me in New York, Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
Reza, the Egyptian prime minister met with Hamas today. The U.S. classifies obviously Hamas as a terrorist organization. Should Washington be concerned about Egypt's role in the conflict?
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think we should point out it's impossible to say what Egypt's role is at this point.
It is not clear at this point if the fiery rhetoric we're hearing from Egyptian leaders is just rhetoric or if there's something beyond that, if they're preparing for example more drastic measures. I think we will 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 that can be described as, viewed as extreme, belligerent or a radical departure from the past and they certainly haven't taken arms against Israel will and it doesn't look like they're providing material support to Hamas. And they have 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.
And these are all early indications that President Morsi, the Egyptian president, has taken a calculated decision not to kick the hornet's 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's rhetoric but at this point not more than that?
FOUAD AJAMI, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Look, I think Reza called it right. 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. There are historic ties between Egypt and Gaza in particular. 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 will remember him, the head of intelligence, the vice president of Mubarak.
AJAMI: He was tight with Israeli intelligence. That kind of proximity and that kind of affinity is gone.
And what you have in Hamas now is the sense that there is an Islamist wave in the region. They look around and they see the Islamist government in Tunisia and 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 really 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 really 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 their stability, their security for Hamas? Not at all. And even the Egyptian patrons of Hamas, they really worry about their own country.
COOPER: Egypt has a lot of problems, economic problems.
AJAMI: Not only that. In the end, the Egyptians have fought four wars against Israel and the harvest has been catastrophe. They don't want to go back to the past.
Reza, there were protests in Tahrir Square today. There were. What do the people on the ground there tell you?
SAYAH: We should point out the protests were relatively small and nowhere near the protests we have seen in the past in Tahrir Square and that could have something to do with the aggressive P.R. 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.
Some are calling for Egypt to back out of the Camp David peace accords and many are saying the world should focus on 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 his 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 this program, as you saw, Congressman Peter King accused the White House of changing the talking points on the attack, changing the talking points from ones 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: Now tonight's "Keeping Them Honest" report.
We want to point out we're looking at facts here. We're not offering our opinion or trying to play favorites and we're not supporting Democrats or Republicans as they do on other cable channels. Our goal is simply real report, finding the facts, the truth. We think there's still value in that.
Our focus tonight, the uproar over the talking points in the Benghazi Consulate attack and the toned-down message about them from one congressman today. That's 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. According to Congressman King, Petraeus told him today the attack on Benghazi on September 11 was an act of terrorism committed by al Qaeda affiliates.
Christopher Stevens, as you know, the U.S. ambassador to 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 to her talking points and blamed the deadly attack on outrage over an anti-Muslim movie, although she did say it was still early in the days of the investigation and she said the possibility existed of an al Qaeda-affiliated 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 16. 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-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The intelligence community said that al Qaeda was involved. That was taken out by someone in the White House. The intelligence community did give an accurate estimate...
COOPER: That's not what the DNI said, right?
KING: I'm telling you what he told us today. I'm telling you what was their reporting on 12th, 13th and 15th. There were intelligence estimates saying al Qaeda was directly involved, 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. That is 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 had on the program did not have that same perception from listening from the same briefings that day.
"Keeping Them Honest," this morning, only about 12 hours later, Mr. King seemed to change his tune. After his committee met with retired General Petraeus today, the congressman was no longer pointing 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, including the Department of Justice, including 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 that were finally put out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Congressman King today now saying it is not clear how the talking points emerged, what agency.
As for his original claim the White House changed them, we asked them. They tell CNN the White House and the State Department offered one edit, changing consulate to "diplomatic facility" for accuracy.
Here's 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 protests 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 didn't even make it into the final version.
We invited Congressman King back on the program tonight. And he declined due to a scheduling conflict.
Tonight, there's another new development on those talking points.
Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins me right now.
Dana, you heard Congressman King from last night and then from today. Doesn't seem to be pointing a finger necessarily at the White House now, but he does still think those talking points were altered. Is he right?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He does still think they are altered.
And you know what? 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 House 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, 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 leak-- link, rather, at that 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, was on "Face the Nation," went on to say that, you know, the demonstrations, which we know now there weren't demonstrations or were basically hijacked by extremist groups. She wasn't sure if it was al Qaeda affiliated, if it was Libyan extremists or who exactly it was. But it was still early days in the investigation.
So did Petraeus' testimony today seem to clear up any of the confusion over why Ambassador Rice went on those talk shows five days after the attacks and attributed the assault to a spontaneous protest that was hijacked?
BASH: Know this is going to shock you, but it cleared up confusion. The answer to that question: it depends who you ask. It didn't change any of 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 was -- told lawmakers that the reason the talking points that Rice got did not mention the terrorists elements -- he said this in the briefing today of what I just told you, is that the al Qaeda -- al Qaeda affiliate, it 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.
And 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, actually, the Democrats emerged much more aggressive in defending Rice. And even the Senate intelligence chairwoman, Dianne 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, pillorying Rice and assassinating her character.
COOPER: Interesting. Dana Bash, appreciate your reporting, as well.
Some more heated words on the Benghazi attack. In a congressional hearing, Representative Dana Rohrabacher, the 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. REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: No, no, you're saying that. I haven't used the word "lie." Have I used the word "lie" with the director of national intelligence? That's what you're saying.
COOPER: Well, you're saying -- OK, they have...
ROHRABACHER: 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.
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 members, Petraeus said the deadly assault on September 11 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 clear -- was very clear on who he was blaming for the lingering questions in Benghazi eight weeks later. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROHRABACHER: 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 President Obama has the gall to float the name as possible secretary of state. The name of the person who was the actual vehicle used to misinform the American people during this crisis. The arrogance and dishonesty reflected in all of this is a little bit breathtaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: As Congressman Rohrabacher directed his outrage, obviously, at President Obama, outrage at the possibility the president might nominate Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with lingering of her talking points on the attack. I spoke with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher earlier. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 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: Well, we have all kinds of evidence. Everybody in the country heard him and people speaking for him, but the president as well, talking about movie rage as being the motive behind 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 -- to movie rage. This is, you know, this is evident to everyone who was listening to this show tonight, they can remember that.
Well, as he was saying that, he knew that was not true.
COOPER: What you're saying is factually not correct, though. The spokesman for the director of national intelligence has said publicly that after the attack, there were multiple streams of information, that they had information that led the agency to...
ROHRABACHER: Oh, come on.
COOPER: Well, I'm telling you what they...
ROHRABACHER: 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 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 understand, announced today that they knew from day -- from the first minute.
COOPER: But that's not what he testified to on Capitol Hill, was it? Two days after the attack.
ROHRABACHER: Now, I haven't heard his testimony today.
COOPER: Two days after the attack.
ROHRABACHER: I understand that what he testified today was that they knew right away.
Also, we have had several -- look, anybody out there who thinks that there's 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 that this was a terrorist attack. Now, 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. I know that's what happens. You have a situation room, which is kept up to the second on information like this.
COOPER: But sir, you're -- what you're -- what you're alleging, though, is just factually it goes against the facts as have been presented by the director of intelligence and even General David Petraeus, who said apparently...
ROHRABACHER: No, you don't have the facts. You don't have the facts of what the position is, because apparently, Petraeus is testifying something different today.
COOPER: Right. You weren't there either. You weren't in the room today, so you're getting secondhand information. Our sources are saying...
ROHRABACHER: No, I'm not. No, I'm not getting secondhand information. I'm getting firsthand information...
ROHRABACHER: ... 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.
ROHRABACHER: No, no, they knew, meaning they. It was being broadcast live to the -- to the intelligence operations in Washington, D.C. They knew. And don't tell me they wouldn't have then 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. I've been avoiding that. Have I used the word "lying" about the director of national intelligence?
COOPER: Well, you said -- you're denying...
ROHRABACHER: That's what you're saying.
COOPER: OK. Well, they have...
ROHRABACHER: 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 as much as possible and not let me complete a sentence, if that's what you want to do.
ROHRABACHER: Everybody else can see it.
COOPER: You can shout me down as much as you want, but I'm just telling you, as you know, the director...
ROHRABACHER: Oh, no, you can repeat the national director security and repeat that a dozen times. 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 -- on the lying. I'm just wondering the logic behind why a 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 or -- and perhaps they should have been more suspicious of that intelligence. Or perhaps they spun the intelligence they were given. But couldn't it just be a matter of wrong intelligence as we've seen before, like in...?
ROHRABACHER: I think it was 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 that 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: Back with us now, 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, McAndrews and Forbes.
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.
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: He didn't seem to let you talk, Anderson. You could barely get the question out.
Look, I think that is a stretch. I'm not prepared to say that president is lying. I don't -- I don't think the White House or the administration handled sort of 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 the president lied.
So, you know, it's interesting. Obviously, the president was aware very early on that there was a possibility that this actually had been a terrorist attack. And I go back to his statement in the Rose Garden. Secretary Clinton was standing next to him. He talked about the protests. He talked about the attack and the tragedy.
And he made a sort of very general -- what seemed like a sort of veiled reference to terrorism. But it was conveniently there. And I think it was there; there was a reason it was there. I think it was there because the president understood, while they -- he believed at the time it was a protest, that it was possible that later intelligence, as they understood what happened in the ground later, that it might, in fact, be extremism.
We know today from -- 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 kind of basically sort through and verify and throw out, as it often does.
Dana, Ambassador Rice, she's been skewered by some Republicans like Congressman Rohrabacher. But what I just don't understand is, even -- I mean, I went back and looked at her comments on "Face the Nation," made that Sunday after the attack, and she does -- you know, she says there was this demonstration that was based on the video, reaction to -- a reaction to Cairo. She does say that it was then hijacked and -- by either Libyan extremists or al Qaeda affiliated groups.
So do you get a sense after today some of those members, clearly not Congressman Rohrabacher, have changed their thinking? BASH: You know, I think at this point, the Republicans who were determined to not allow her to be the second of state, if that is, in fact, what the president chooses, are not -- they've not changed their minds.
What we heard that was a little bit new from Republicans, again, continuing 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 5 days after the attack, but that she took it a step further.
For example, Saxby Chambliss, who's the vice chair of the intelligence committee, he on these issues really tries to be nonpartisan, did go out of his way to say what concerns him is that she said, in that same interview, that al Qaeda has been decimated by the Obama administration, when even if she couldn't talk about it because it was classified, she knew that there was a possibility, based on the classified information, that al Qaeda, at least an affiliate, was very much involved in this.
So that is why -- part of the reason why they say that they're continuing to blame this on politics. It's not as extreme, maybe, as what we heard from Dana Rohrabacher.
COOPER: And Fran, just very, very quickly, because we only have a couple seconds. What is your assessment of Rice's performance on those Sunday talk shows?
TOWNSEND: Well, look, I think what we know is that the talking points were not entirely accurate for the reasons they specified, and I think, look, she made this sound much clearer than the talking points that she was probably given.
COOPER: Dana Bash, Fran Townsend, thanks very much.
COOPER: Coming up, an explosion and fire on an oil platform in the Gulf leaves at least 11 crew members injured and at least two missing. Plus what the Coast Guard is saying about how much oil has spilled, next.
COOPER: New explosions happening right now in Gaza. Let's go to our Sara Sidner. Sara, what are you hearing?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just saw directly behind us what looked like a ball of fire that was a ball of sparks eventually. I'll move out of the shot here.
It was an absolutely bone-rattling blast, and we all fell to the floor. OK.
What we now know is we think that the building that it hit was perhaps a police headquarters that used to be the -- 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 exactly what went on in there. But man, there was 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.
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. We know -- we have seen the drones that the Israeli military uses ourselves. I was there 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.
ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 Bulletin."
At least 11 people were hurt in an explosion and fire on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. And the search is on for at least two crew members who are still missing. The Coast Guard says about 28 gallons of fuel spilled into the area about 20 miles off the coast of Grand Isle, Louisiana.
The Bosnian immigrant convicted in a plan to bomb the New York City subway system has been sentenced to life in prison. Adis Medunjanin was charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and to provide material support to al Qaeda.
During sentencing today, he chanted passages from the Koran and criticized the United States.
And a 360 follow. Another person has died after contracting fungal meningitis from contaminated steroid injections. The CDC says the total number of cases is now 480 and 33 deaths.
And Hostess announced today the company is shutting down for good, blaming the strike by bakers. Some grocery stores are already reporting a run on Twinkies. So you better stock up while you can.
Anderson will be right back with "The RidicuList."
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. And 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 just minding his own business, doing his paper route one morning.
It was dark, so at first Jackson thought it was a dog. Understandable. But that's 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 are going to need to see that slowed down.
Just imagine you're 14 years old. You're on your bike, you're trying to do your paper route, and that thing appears out of nowhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I looked over, and I'm like what the heck is that? It just freaked me out when it stood up on its back legs and, like, wrapped its front legs around me and pulled me off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It wrapped its legs around the guy. At this point in our story, Jackson, who I think we can all agree is a very 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 crazy goat.
I've seen a lot of creepy goats on YouTube like this one.
But for my money, the darker goat, this one, 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: Reportedly, he hadn't returned from a paper route and was about an hour and a half overdue. He kind of had his paper bag sitting in the tree where he was and he was about halfway up the tree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So it turned out fine: no one got hurt. The goat is back at home. But Jackson is taking some ribbing from his friends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And everybody was, like, "Hey goat boy."
I'm like, "Hey, guys."
People are just, like, "Why are you scared of goats?"
I'm, like, "That was a freaky goat. I think it's possessed or something."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jackson, you deserve some kind of a medal, frankly. I think I'm going to have nightmares the rest of my life just from the video. I wasn't even locked in a battle of wills with that goat.
I guess the good news is we now have an official mascot of "The RidicuList." That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.