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The Situation Room
U.S. Intel Revises Libya Attack Assessment; Syria Moves Chemical Weapons; U.S. Announces $45 Million for Syria Crisis; Colorado Shooting Documents Released; Insurgent Attacks in Afghanistan; Interview with Rep. Peter King; Should Ambassador Susan Rice Resign?; Sports Strategy
Aired September 28, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, first on CNN, a startling new intelligence time line on the attack that killed the United States ambassador and three other Americans in Libya.
Also, what we're just finding out about FBI agents trying to get access to the crime scene.
And a rare move for President Obama during this week's controversial referee lockout. Ahead, why it may have earned him new points out there on the political scoreboard.
And the world's top diplomat pranked -- the United Nations secretary general receives some unwanted advances in a bizarre phone call.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first, this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, a story you'll see first only here on CNN.
The U.S. intelligence community coming out with a new time line of events that led to the death of ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya and word of a possible split between the U.S. intelligence agencies and the White House over who knew what and when.
Let's get straight to CNN intelligence correspondent, Suzanne Kelly, and CNN national security contributor, the former Bush homeland security adviser, who's also joining us, Fran Townsend.
She's a member of the CIA's External Advisory Committee. Last month, she visited Libya with her employer, MacAndrews & Forbes -- Suzanne, first to you. What are we learning? What are you hearing from your sources about what's going on in this investigation?
SUZANNE KELLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's really extraordinary. This is really the first and -- and the fullest explanation we've gotten, publicly, anyway, from the intelligence community about what it knew and when it knew it.
So I want to read to you. The U.S. intelligence community says based on new information they have collected that "The attack appears to be a deliberate and organized terrorist assault carried out by extremists affiliated or sympathetic with Al Qaeda."
Now that's from Sean Turner, who is the director of communication for the offices of the director of National Intelligence.
So it -- it really kind of takes all the steam out of the back and forth we've heard about whether or not there was a protest ahead of this attack; whether it was spontaneous, as we heard people from the administration say just as recently as Sunday, on some of the Sunday talk shows.
And I think, Wolf, what you're seeing, really, is the frustration of the intelligence community of having this investigation turned into something of a -- a political toy, really, if you will, a few weeks before the elections.
BLITZER: But why did it take so long to come to this conclusion, which a lot of folks assumed was the case from -- from -- right from the beginning, occurring on the anniversary of 9/11?
Stuff like this doesn't necessarily happen spontaneously, because it's got to be pretty well planned if people are coming in with heavy weapons.
Now they've concluded, as you say, a deliberate and organized terrorist salt -- assault.
Why did it take so long, since 9/11, for this to happen?
KELLY: Well, Wolf, I think it's fair to say that there are a lot of people here in Washington who would like to throw their opinion in as soon as they get little tidbits of information about something like this. And they sort of come up with their own ideas of what possibly happened.
But the intelligence community, as Fran will tell you, can't work that way. They've got to actually take information they have, they can prove, they can verify, they know where they got it from, and put those pieces together until the full picture comes out of what they actually know. And that doesn't happen on the American time line that sort of...
KELLY: -- jacks our ideas they)...
BLITZER: -- I understand that...
KELLY: -- 24 hours.
BLITZER: -- I understand that completely. But what I don't understand is why top officials in the Obama administration were saying the exact opposite, that it was spontaneous, it just happened, it was a result of this 14 minute trailer. That's what I don't understand. I can understand that you don't know what happened. You say we don't know, we're investigating...
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
BLITZER: We'll get back to you. But they came out repeatedly with statements, whether it was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations...
BLITZER: -- the secretary of the State, even the president of the United States, certainly Jay Carney, they were saying something very, very different when they clearly didn't know what the investigation was leading to.
KELLY: That's right. And I think that what we saw was -- was -- and what you hear from the administration now is that, well, the people who were out there were -- were giving caveats. They were saying based on this initial information.
But right now, Wolf, it doesn't look like that's really all they had to go on, because the intelligence community -- and I think that's why you see the statement today -- is there's growing frustration over what they knew and what was coming out of people who were speaking on behalf of the administration that maybe they knew something different.
BLITZER: Do you want to weigh in on this?
TOWNSEND: Well, I mean we knew, Wolf, from a senior law enforcement official that spoke to me, who said, we knew within the first 24 hours that this was a terrorist attack. And I think what you're seeing, to Suzanne's point, is both law enforcement, intelligence, real frustration with the career -- by the career professionals, who say, look, we're working this. We knew it was a terrorism investigation and that's how we proceeded on this. And they don't want to get caught up in the politics of a presidential election.
BLITZER: Because the argument that a lot of Republicans, and some others, are making is that for political reasons, the Obama administration downplayed this notion of this being an act of terror, pre-planned, any association with Al Qaeda. They were just want -- wanted to show that it's not happening on the president's watch and -- and -- and they couldn't be blamed for this, if you will, that the -- the shoddy, if you will, security that was at that consulate in Benghazi.
TOWNSEND: Wolf, it may take some -- some weeks now to get to the bottom of that and whether or not that was -- it was dictated by politics, the initial response.
We see today Senator John Kerry, a Democrat in the Senate, asking the right questions. And these are questions that others, Republicans, members of the Senate and House, are also asking.
So I think you ought to expect we will see extensive hearings and investigation on this.
BLITZER: Now you reported earlier in the week that FBI agents who have been sent to Libya to investigate, they still have not been able to get to the scene of this terrorist action in Benghazi. They're basically holed up hundreds of miles away in Tripoli, the capital.
You have new information?
TOWNSEND: That's right, Wolf. And so you've got a -- a handful, you've got some FBI agents in Tripoli waiting to deploy out to Benghazi. You've got dozens of other FBI agents in countries, in third countries, waiting visas to get into Libya to be able to go to Benghazi.
I -- I will tell you, Wolf, talking to law enforcement officials as recently as this afternoon, you know, it's been -- today is day 18 since the attack. And the point was made to me, we may not even go now.
What would be the point?
What are we going to learn there?
And how tragic is that?
We've lost four Americans, including the United States ambassador, and the investigators who are responsible for drawing conclusions may never have gotten to the scene of this horrendous crime.
BLITZER: So who messed up here, based on what you're hearing?
TOWNSEND: You know, Wolf, I go back to my ex -- my own experience in the White House. You often see interagency rivalries and disagreements about, did the security conditions permit, what's the timing, what's the security requirement to get them out there?
But that's the role, frankly, of the White House homeland security adviser, John Brennan. We've seen John Brennan come out, after the bin Laden raid. And, frankly, in response to the underwear bomber and all these other terrorist attacks, it's really odd. We've seen no -- we have not seen him present publicly at all or speak publicly at all. And he's really the president's most senior substantive adviser on these sorts of issues.
Frankly, I -- I don't know what role he has played, but it's a fair question, why isn't he talking publicly about it and what is the role that he has played to try and resolve some of these disputes, that have clearly hampered both the intelligence community...
TOWNSEND: -- and the law enforcement investigation?
BLITZER: Lots of explaining is needed right now.
Guys, thanks very much for that new information. Meanwhile, another disturbing development unfolding right now, this one involving the worsening crisis in Syria.
The Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, revealing today that U.S. intelligence shows Syria has moved some of its chemical weapons for security purposes. It's a red line that the president has warned the country against crossing.
Let's get straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
She's got the latest -- what -- what do we know now, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Defense Secretary Panetta, a little bit unexpectedly, getting right into the latest intelligence, what he knows and what he doesn't know about Syria's chemical weapons.
STARR (voice-over): A top Syrian opposition group claims it captured these missiles in Damascus and said they had been adapted to carry chemical and biological warheads.
CNN cannot independently confirm the claim.
But now, a new admission from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta -- Syria's chemical weapons have been on the move and he's not sure what exactly has happened.
LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There has been intelligence that there have been some moves that have taken place. Where exactly that's taken place, we don't know.
STARR: Panetta insists that Bashar Al-Assad's forces still control the major chemical and biological sites, but there are security concerns.
PANETTA: There has been some intelligence that -- that with regards to some of these sites, that there has been some movement in order to -- for -- for the Syrians to better secure what they -- the chemicals.
STARR: Rebels clearly are making a public play that they can get to the weapons. On this video, a narrator points to satellite imagery of what he says is a chemical weapons warehouse in Damascus and the tunnel that connects the warehouse to a military airport.
The video cannot be independently confirmed.
Panetta knows rebels are on the hunt. He doesn't know if they have succeeded.
PANETTA: I don't have any specific information about the opposition and whether or not they've obtained some of this or how much they've obtained and just exactly what's taken place.
STARR: President Obama has said a tight lid must stay on the Syrian arsenal.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized, that would change my calculus.
STARR: Concerns about the weapons, recent bombings of government buildings in Damascus and stepped up fighting all underscoring the rebels are taking the fight to the regime's power centers.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: And any possession, any ability of the rebels to get their hands on the chemical or the biological weapons certainly would set off alarm bells. If there is a complete breakdown of the Syrian regime and a lack of security, the worries even expand further into groups like Hezbollah or Al Qaeda getting their hands on this stuff.
It's a growing worry -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A red line in Syria, as well.
All right. Thanks very much, Barbara, for that.
Syria, by the way, is also center stage at the United Nations today, where the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced millions of dollars in additional funding for the Syrian opposition.
CNN's foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is in New York.
She's watching this part of the story -- Jill, what happened?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a sober assessment. Conditions in Syria, she said, continue to deteriorate and attempts to move forward at the United Nations have been blocked repeatedly.
But she said they have to move forward.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): In New York for the U.N. General Assembly, key nations of the Friends of Syria Group strategized once again on how to give more help to the Syrian opposition. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announcing another $15 million, bringing the total to almost $45 million, for what she called "the unarmed opposition."
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: That translates into more than 1,100 sets of communications equipment, including satellite linked computers, telephones and cameras, as well as training for more than 1,000 activists, students and independent journalists.
OBAMA: They tell us that there is a common heartbeat to humanity.
DOUGHERTY: The Obama administration still insists it's just a matter of time before the regime of Syrian president, Bashar Al-Assad, falls. But a senior State Department official concedes, "None of this is happening as quickly as we would like."
When and if Assad goes, officials say it's crucial the opposition be ready to take over.
Representatives of revolutionary councils attended the meeting, their names kept secret because many must return to their war-torn country. Others, from so-called local councils, being set up to run municipal affairs in liberated areas, need help getting organized, as well as communicating with each other and the outside world.
CLINTON: I am announcing an additional $30 million to help get food, water, blankets and critical medical services to people suffering under the relentless assaults.
DOUGHERTY: U.S. humanitarian assistance now totals more than $130 million. So far, 350,000 refugees have fled to neighboring countries. As many as 1.5 million people are displaced within Syria.
The Friends of Syria meeting also discussed how to increase pressure on the Assad regime, including financial sanctions.
But the most senior official so far to defect from the regime tells CNN's Christiane Amanpour, he draws a line at outside military action to bring down Assad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMANPOUR")
GEN. MANAF TLASS, SYRIAN DEFECTOR: I don't believe there should be any foreign intervention in Syria. There should be an agreement or a resolution. We feel that when it comes to the superpowers, there is no political will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO TAPE)
DOUGHERTY: Secretary Clinton came down hard on Iran, calling it "Syria's most important lifeline" and noting that Iranian Revolutionary Guards personnel are operating inside Syria. There is no longer any doubt, she says, that Tehran will do whatever it takes to protect its proxy in Damascus -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, thank you.
Over in Afghanistan, a CNN exclusive. We're going to take you inside the mind of a man in jail right now for planning to become a suicide bomber.
Also, separating fact from fiction when it comes to ObamaCare -- our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta goes in depth.
BLITZER: Next Wednesday, we'll see the first debate between President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. Health care's on the short list of hot button issues. Devil often in the details. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, goes in depth with a closer look at what's at stake.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since President Obama's health care law was enacted, 3.1 million people under the age of 26 are now covered by their parents' plans and preventive care is covered 100 percent by insurance companies. Seniors, in particular, have benefited on prescription drugs.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Seniors who fall in the coverage gap known as the donut hole will start getting some help. They'll receive $250 to help pay for prescriptions, and that will over time fill in the donut hole.
GUPTA: 5.5 million seniors have saved a total of nearly $4.5 billion on prescription drugs since the law was enacted according to the Health and Human Services Department. He also plans to slow spending on Medicare.
OBAMA: I have strengthened Medicare. We've added years to the life of Medicare. We did it by getting rid of taxpayers subsidies to insurance companies that weren't making people healthier.
GUPTA: By 2014, the law requires everyone to have health insurance whether they purchase it themselves or through their employers. And insurers can't deny you if you have a pre-existing condition or increase your rates. The law has become a cornerstone of the Obama campaign.
OBAMA: I refuse to eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor and elderly or disabled, also those with the most can pay less.
GUPTA: But Romney says the Affordable Care Act is unaffordable.
MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know that health care's too expensive. Obamacare doesn't make it less expensive.
GUPTA: He wants Obamacare gone, including the prescription drug benefit for seniors. But he does want to keep one of the most popular pieces of Obamacare, although he doesn't say exactly how his plan would work.
ROMNEY: We have to make sure that people who have pre-existing conditions are able to get insured and had that folks that get sick don't get dropped by their insurance company.
GUPTA: Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, propose to cap malpractice insurance, cut Medicaid by $810 billion over the next ten years, give states more control over their Medicaid funds, overhaul Medicare.
The overhaul, people now younger than 55, when they reach retirement, would have the option of getting a voucher to purchase private insurance or they could stick with traditional Medicare. REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This financial support system is designed to guarantee that seniors can always afford Medicare coverage no exceptions.
GUPTA (on-camera): Now, there are a lot of differences, Wolf, between the two plans. And Medicaid is probably something that's not discussed as much. But then there's about 60 million people out there who are very dependent on Medicaid, one in five adults, one in three children. So, they're paying a lot of attention to this, Wolf.
BLITZER: They certainly are. So, let's talk a little bit about Medicaid, what's going on as far as who qualifies under the new rules, how would the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare as it's called, impact all of this?
GUPTA: Yes. Well, you know, keep in mind again, Medicare is for the elderly. Medicaid often for people who are either poor or disabled. With Obamacare, one of the ideas of ensuring more people was to expand Medicaid. And the way they do that is they raise the level at which somebody can qualify.
So, you can qualify more easily for Medicaid. Now, as you know, Wolf, and we talked about this quite a bit, the states have the option of whether or not they want to expand Medicaid and take additional money from the federal government or not. And the federal government would put in money and the states would put in money.
So, not all the states are opting into that. But that's what the big changes are under Obama care. An expansion of Medicaid is sort of the plan, Wolf.
BLITZER: What are the Romney and Ryan plans for Medicaid as far as they're concerned?
GUPTA: I think the best way of characterizing it is they want to treat Medicaid more like block grants. So, the federal government would give money and the states would really retain all the control of what exactly to do with that money.
They also, over time, and as you know, Wolf, sometimes the math is hard to predict or project, but over ten years, they want to take out about $800 billion out of that federal money that's going to the states. And that's part of how their, you know, the Romney/Ryan plan is cutting costs, they say.
BLITZER: So, seniors who are recipients of Medicaid, Sanjay, how will they be impacted?
GUPTA: You know, Wolf, I see this as a physician quite a bit. You imagine the senior person over 65 who's also poor and now needs nursing home care or needs long-term care. Not somebody who's been in a hospital for a long time, but just somebody who now needs nursing home care. Those are the people who are probably going to be the most impacted, because a lot of people pay attention to this. But Medicare doesn't cover a lot of that type of nursing home care or long-term care. So, those people are what are known as dually eligible. They're eligible for Medicare and they get their nursing home care paid, you know, in part by Medicaid.
If Medicaid goes down, shrinks, or goes away in some of these places, those people will be affected the most in all this, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sanjay, excellent explanation. And a lot of our viewers who are watching right now very, very interested in what's going on on this front. I'm sure it will be a subject during these three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate as well. Appreciate it very much.
Meanwhile, new documents released in the Aurora theater massacre. We're now learning the accused shooter, James Holmes, was barred from his college campus. And that's not all. The latest when we come back.
BLITZER: New information unsealed today about a deadly shooting spree. Lisa's back. She's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. So, what did we learn?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are new documents that shed light into July's deadly Colorado theater shooting. The prosecution says 24-year-old James Holmes was banned from the University of Colorado Denver campus after threatening someone weeks before the shooting. The defense denies those claims.
These documents also confirm Holmes sent a package containing a notebook to his psychiatrist. The contents of the book are now sealed. The rampage during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" left 12 people dead and 58 wounded.
And his wife is in prison for murdering a British businessman. Now, fallen Chinese politician, Bo Xilai (ph), reportedly has been expelled from the communist party and tripped of his duties. China state run news agency says the party found Bo responsible for severe mistakes, including peddling, bribery and womanizing. Bo was once considered a rising political star.
And 19 people were killed in the crash of a plane carrying them through a staging point for Mt. Everest expeditions in the fall. An airport officials says it appears the flight from Katmandu crashed on a river bank after striking an eagle. No one survived that crash, but officials have recovered the flight data recorder.
AFP reports a French judge will investigate how topless photos of Katherine, the wife of British Prince William, were obtained. AFP says investigators will try to identify the photographer and whether or not a crime was committed. Meanwhile, a royal spokesman says there will not be a complaint over nude photos of Prince Harry partying in Vegas. He says it would be a distraction for the prince who is deployed in Afghanistan.
So, I know the pictures particularly of the duchess. I mean, that's really disturbing for the royal family.
SYLVESTER: Hopefully, they'll have some answers on how those photos even got out in the first place, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. And let's hope that the prince is OK in Afghanistan.
SYLVESTER: That's right.
BLITZER: He's under military deployment there. Thanks very much.
Up next, we're taking you inside the mind of a would-be suicide bomber. It's a story you're going to want to see.
BLITZER: In Afghanistan right now U.S. troops are fighting an uphill battle against a recent spade of insurgent attacks, many of them by suicide bombers. CNN's Anna Coren spoke exclusively with an accused suicide bomber and attempted to find out what drives them to kill.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind these high walls at (INAUDIBLE) prison among the 7,000 inmates are several men who say they're hell bent on being terrorists.
COREN: We've come here to meet a confessed would-be suicide bomber, one of hundreds now locked up behind bars. Twenty-five-year-old Ruhullah believes he was carrying out God's will when he and his friends planned an attack on American soldiers in Magarha Province (ph). He says he agreed to wear a suicide vest and kill as many foreigners as possible.
RUHULLAH, ACCUSED SUICIDE BOMBER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
COREN: It's a special feeling that comes to you when you are ready for a suicide attack, he tells me. No one can stop you. No one could stop me. That is except the law. When police arrested him five months ago in Jalalabad (ph) during the planning of the attack, he's now awaiting trial. Proudly a member of the Taliban, Ruhullah says no one encouraged him to do this.
RUHULLAH: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
COREN: Look at our situation. The foreigners kill our people. They insult our religion burning the Holy Koran and making cartoons of our Prophet Mohammed. If we don't defend Islam, then we are not Muslim. Suicide bombings and other attacks are now daily occurrences in the war in Afghanistan and the methods of the insurgents are constantly changing, according to the prison boss, General Kahn Mohammad Kahn.
GEN. KHAN MOHAMMAD KHAN, PRISON BOSS: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
COREN: The enemy don't use their old tactics, now they use women, sometimes children and teenagers. They even get dressed up in military uniforms. They don't fight face-to-face, they're cowards.
(on camera): Well the Taliban denies recruiting children as suicide bombers. The facts tell a very different story. Authorities say just a few days ago a 10-year-old orphan boy managed to escape from insurgents who were going to make him wear a suicide vest so he could blow himself up in front of coalition troops.
(voice-over): Ruhallah has a 4-year-old son who he says he loves and misses very much. When I ask him how he'd feel if his child was used as a suicide bomber, he tells me --
RUHALLAH: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
COREN: -- if he wants to be a suicide bomber when he gets older, well, then, no one can stop him. If he follows Islam and does it for Islam, then that's a good thing. At times he speaks with hatred in his eyes. And then there are moments when he smiles explaining this is all a test from God.
RUHALLAH: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
COREN: Our real life starts after doomsday. So this is not our real life. This world is a paradise for pagans and a hell for Muslims. We just need to be patient. The Afghan Intelligence Service and armed forces say they have foiled dozens of attacks in recent months. And while that's an encouraging sign, Ruhallah says there are thousands of others just like him ready to put on a suicide vest and die for their country and their religion.
Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.
BLITZER: All right. I want to bring in the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Peter King. He is joining us on the phone right now. In the aftermath of the latest information into the investigation into what happened when the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in that attack. It's a terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in. Is it true you're calling on the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, to resign because of the comments she made on those five Sunday talk shows?
REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN (via phone): Yes, Wolf. I believe that this was such a failure of foreign policy message and leadership, such a misstatement of facts as were known (ph) at the time and for her to go on all of those shows and to in effect be our spokesman for the world and be misinforming the American people and our allies and countries around the world, to me somebody has to pay the price for this. We have too much -- things go wrong and then everyone forgets about it the next day. I think we have to send a clear message and on such a vital issue as this where an American ambassador was killed where by all the accumulation of evidence at the time the presumption had to be it was terrorism. I can see why if they wanted to say it's too early to say it's definitively terrorism but to rule out terrorism, to say it was not terrorism at that time was a -- to me a terrible mistake to make whether it was done intentionally or unintentionally and to show the significance of that, I believe she should resign, yes.
BLITZER: Because there is a statement that the spokesperson, the director of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence put out today they are saying it was obviously a terrorist -- an action, a deliberate and organized terrorist assault carried out by extremists affiliated or sympathetic with al Qaeda. That's today's statement. But they also said this, and let me read it to you because it might explain why Susan Rice and other administration officials were saying what they were saying and this is from Sean Turner (ph), director of Public Affairs Office of Director of National Intelligence.
"In the immediate aftermath there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo." The statement goes onto say that information was provided to the White House and Congress with a clear understanding that it was preliminary and could change. Quote "We provided that initial assessment to executive branch officials and members of Congress who use that information to discuss the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available. Throughout our investigation we continue to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving." And if you read closely what Susan Rice was saying, she was saying that was based on the information she and the administration had at the time when she was pooh-poohing this notion of an al Qaeda attack or something along those lines.
KING: Wolf, she was on five days after the fact. And I would agree that there may not have been conclusive evidence that it had to be terrorists, but there's far more evidence that it was terrorist than it was not terrorists and if she'd come on and said it's -- obviously there was some terrorist involvement here, we're not certain of the extent of it, but we're trying to find out. Instead she was ruling it out. And you know she may play over the semantics, but the fact is everyone came away from watching those shows the belief that the United States government was saying this was not a terrorist attack.
You saw what Jay Carney was saying days after that. But the whole predicate for that was set by Susan Rice's (INAUDIBLE) appearance on those shows. And to me she was clearly sending a message it was not terrorists and it was not -- even if you look what the DNI is saying (INAUDIBLE), but she -- what she should have said was that there is considerable evidence this could be terrorism. The fact that al Qaeda and the Mughrabi (ph) is a stronghold in that area. The fact that Anwar al Sharia (ph) is a stronghold on that area, the fact that there was direct and indirect fire coming in, there was heavy weapons involved, the presumption should have been leaning toward it being terrorism. If she wanted to say we're not absolutely certain of the extent of the terrorist control that would have been (INAUDIBLE). That would have been a legitimate statement. But to come out so clearly and deny and say there was no terrorist involvement, this was not a terrorist attack. That was I believe irresponsible. And whether she was saying it on her own or she was told to say it or whatever, the fact is she was the vehicle by which that misleading message was translated to the American people and the world.
BLITZER: Yes, remember this incident occurred on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 in Benghazi --
BLITZER: She went out, as you say, five days later. I looked it up and here's what she said on some of the shows and I'll read it to you.
BLITZER: She said "our current best assessment based on the information that we have at present is that in fact what this began as it was a spontaneous not a premeditated response to what had transpired in Cairo." She was paraphrasing -- she was using that line in her comments. So here's the question to you. Do you believe that this was just inadvertent that she had bad information given to her from the U.S. intelligence community or she deliberately sought to mislead the American people?
KING: Wolf, I don't know the answer. Either way it was wrong. It was intentionally or it was done through ignorance, but in either case I think we have to show that there is a price to be paid for such a gross misstatement of reality and of the facts. And, again, as ambassador to the U.N. and (INAUDIBLE) ambassadors to the world in that position, she's transmitting a message. And everyone watching those shows that day came away with a clear impression this was not a terrorist attack including Jay Carney whom for the next several days kept insisting it was not a terrorist attack.
BLITZER: And I just want to wrap it up by saying other administration officials were saying similar things, what Ambassador Susan Rice was saying including the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, including I think the secretary of state, maybe even the president in the immediate aftermath of what happened, but you're specifically calling for her resignation.
KING: She was the one who was sent out by the administration. She was the one who went from show to show. She was the one who was out front. She was the one who was there. And therefore she was going to get the glory of that. Now she should pay the consequences.
BLITZER: Peter King is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
KING: Wolf, thank you. BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. Candy Crowley is here. She's the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." She interviewed Susan Rice on that Sunday immediately after the 11th anniversary of 9/11. We'll discuss that and more with Candy when we come back.
BLITZER: Our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" is here to follow-up on what we just heard from the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King. He's calling on the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Candy, Susan Rice, to resign because of what she said on your show and four other Sunday talk shows when she suggested based on the information she had at that time this was just reaction to that 14-minute anti-Muslim trailer as opposed to an organized al Qaeda- related terror attack. You interviewed her that day.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is true that this was who the administration wanted to put out. The fact that she appeared on so many shows tells you exactly how this rolls. They say here's who we're going to put out. It is interesting to me that they did not put out the head of the National Security Council. It's interesting to me they didn't put out someone who was sort of in touch with the intelligence information. Now, we're assuming that probably the U.N. -- our U.N. ambassador, the U.S., U.N. ambassador does have some access to some of the intelligence information. But she was clearly going on what those departments told her because they put her out. This was -- she didn't voluntarily come on these shows.
This is what the administration wanted to have out there. Now, whether or not it's her fault certainly is sometimes in Washington it doesn't matter whose fault it is, she was the public face of this response. The question I think too is what you asked and Peter King wouldn't play, but the idea is why would you be so adamant? When most people look and said, well of course it's a terrorist attack. I mean, they had you know large weaponry. It's not something you bring to a protest. And now we're finding out there might not even have been a protest at the time this attack took place. So I think there are lots of questions to be answered here that the administration is going to have to talk about.
And what went on in Libya, what we know about it, when we knew about it, all that kind of thing. Whether or not Susan Rice is the person that needs to be fired, I can pretty much guarantee you the president won't do that. But whether or not she's responsible I think is an open question.
BLITZER: This -- they put out a statement earlier today, the Office of the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. This is from the communications director, Erik Pelton (ph) -- Erin Pelton (ph) -- let me read it. "During her appearances on the Sunday talk shows September 16, 2012, Ambassador Rice's comments were prefaced at every turn with a clear statement that an FBI investigation was underway that would provide the definitive accounting of the events that took place in Benghazi. At every turn Ambassador Rice provided and said she was providing the best information and the best assessment that the administration had at the time based on what was provided to Ambassador Rice and other senior U.S. officials by the U.S. intelligence community." So that's their explanation. She didn't --
CROWLEY: That it was caveated (ph), right --
BLITZER: She didn't -- she didn't deliberately go out there to mislead the American people. This is what she was told by the U.S. intelligence community. And this is what she told the American people in your interview and the interview with the others.
BLITZER: And it was caveated (ph). Here's the best information we have at the time. The FBI is looking at that. Interesting I think I saw on your show that the FBI hasn't yet been let into Libya --
BLITZER: And they may not (INAUDIBLE) go because it's so dangerous.
CROWLEY: Right, so I'm not sure what they're looking at, but nonetheless we're assuming there are some intelligence, CIA intelligence agents on the ground in Libya some place. Now why they had intelligence that led them to believe it wasn't terrorism I think is a totally different question. But that's probably more of an intelligence community question than for the U.N. ambassador --
BLITZER: Candy, thanks. I know you're going to follow-up this Sunday. Don't forget, watch "STATE OF THE UNION" Sunday morning 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Candy has an exclusive interview with Senator John McCain, the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.
Call it the sports strategy, up next how President Obama might be using sports to try to help him win a second term.
BLITZER: We're getting reaction from the White House now to this charge from Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee that Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations should resign. I just spoke on the phone with Tommy Bedore (ph), the spokesman for the National Security Council, says "Ambassador Rice has done extraordinary work for the president at the United Nations and for the American people. The president greatly appreciates the work that she does every single day and he is looking forward to her continued work." This is a response to Peter King's charge that she misled the American people during those television talk show interviews on the Sunday after the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
Tommy Bedore (ph) also makes the point that everything she said in that interview was cleared by interagency group. It was based on the latest information that the U.S. had and certainly nothing she said was deliberately designed to mislead the American people. Obviously clearly since those five interviews on those Sunday talk shows, the U.S. intelligence community has now concluded that it was a deliberate effort to kill the U.S. ambassador and the four others, and it was an affiliate by those either affiliated or inspired by al Qaeda, but a strong statement of support for Susan Rice from the White House just coming into CNN only moments ago.
Other news we're following, some political news also involving the race for the White House, this week's NFL referee controversy involving that botched call at the end of the Monday night football game. It certainly gave President Obama and Mitt Romney a chance to use a bit of sports strategy as it's called. Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar explains.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the call that had everyone talking Tuesday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Touchdown.
KEILAR: Including President Obama, out of sight of cameras on the south lawn of the White House, he told the press it was quote "terrible" and said "I've been saying for months we've got to get our refs back." Late Wednesday night, the NFL and the refs reached a deal. So when a reporter asked Mitt Romney Thursday what he thought about the refs returning it was strange when he said this:
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "I sure hope they do."
KEILAR: And in August while visiting a pivotal NASCAR race in Richmond, a reporter asked Mitt Romney the question any NASCAR fan should be able to answer. Who is your driver?
ROMNEY: I've got a lot of drivers I like -- thanks.
KEILAR: Politics and sports often collide as candidates try to relate to voters. Rory Davenport is a former professional tennis player and PR consultant.
RORY DAVENPORT, SENIOR V.P. OGILVY PUBLIC RELATIONS: I think you need to know about a situation that concerns a significant portion of the population. Pop culture is important.
KEILAR: In this match-up Davenport says the advantage is obvious.
DAVENPORT: Romney comes across more as an owner and it's difficult for owners to connect with people. I think most people recognize that President Obama is a true sports fan.
KEILAR: When British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the U.S., President Obama gave him a taste of "March Madness". Obama plays golf. He plays basketball and he comfortably talks sports in interviews.
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (INAUDIBLE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Mr. President. You've done your homework.
KEILAR: Last month in the key battleground state of Ohio, he gave eight minutes to sports radio station 97.1 The Fan (ph), but President Obama isn't always on his game, so to speak. In Boston this summer, he jokingly thanked the city for trading a beloved Red Sox player to his favorite team, the Chicago White Sox.
OBAMA: And finally Boston, I just want to say thank you for Yukelis (ph) --
OBAMA: I didn't think I would get any boos out of here but --
OBAMA: -- I guess I should not have brought up baseball. I understand, my mistake.
KEILAR: And remember this errant pitch at a Mets (ph) game?
KEILAR: Not so good there, Wolf. You know obviously sports can be tricky, but it's also a very effective way for candidates to connect to voters. And specifically with some key demographics, white males, of course that's obvious, but also women. And we've seen that here at the White House, President Obama, and this is no mistake that we knew so much about this, paid a lot of attention to how well those female athletes were doing at the Olympics in London. He called Gabby Douglas to congratulate her on her Gold Medal for gymnastics and we know that he was very excited about how the women's soccer team also performed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I know he was. All right, thanks very much, Brianna Keilar over at the White House.
We're following the breaking news, continuing to make calls, Congressman Peter King, he is calling on the United States Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice to resign. Much more on this and all the day's other news at the top of the hour.