tv Face the Nation CBS August 4, 2013 8:30am-9:01am PDT
>> schieffer: today on "face the nation," america on edge as the u.s. government issues a worldwide terror alert. 22 u.s. embassies are closed because officials say they've uncovered a possible terror threat from al qaeda. we'll have reports on that and get the latest from the chairman of the house homeland security committee, michael mccaul. then we'll turn to the week's other big story-- the fallout from russia granting asylum to n.s.a. leaker edward snowden. >> russia has stabbed us in the back and each day that snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife. >> schieffer: we'll hear from new york democrat chuck schumer and we'll talk with house budget committee chairman paul ryan. plus analysis from the "washington post's" dan balz,
author of the new book "collision 2012." peggy noonan of the "wall street journal." barton gellman of "time" magazine and the "washington post." david sanger of the "new york times," and cbs news political director john dickerson. a lot to cover, but it's what we do on "face the nation." captioning sponsored by cbs from cbs news in washington, "face the nation" with bob schieffer. >> schieffer: and good morning again. well, we're getting more details this morning on why the government has closed those 22 american diplomatic posts across the middle east and north africa, and why they are taking so seriously the threat of a possible al qaeda attack. the travel warning that the state department issued last week for americans traveling overseas we're now told will remain in effect for the rest of this month. for the latest this morning, we're going toure cbs news
homeland security security correspondent bob orr, who has been on this for all-- for a long, long time. bob, why are they taking this one so much more seriously than some of the things in the past? >> because this threat, bob, comes from the group from al qaeda, al qaeda of the arabian peninsula, it has been the most dedicated, the most active and charged from al qaeda leadership to be in charge of attacking americans. this is a serious, credible threat, probably the most serious the government has seen since 2006. the problem here is while we know a great deal about what they're trying to do, we're missing some very important points-- the date, the time, the scope of the attack, intelligence working overtime this weekend trying to get some of those factors nailed down so we can try to disrupt this plot. >> schieffer: but there's a lot of really scary stuff going on this morning talking about surgeically inserted bombs for one thing. they seem to be talking about something they describe as big.
>> yeah, i think the fear is that this may be a big play from a group that has been unable to muster a large-scale attack since 9/11, and they've got some expertise. taif a bomb maker, the guy who built the underwear bombs and printer cartridge bombs. he's a devious genius and we 99 the past he's experimented in research trying to build body bombs, that is, implant explosives in human beings which would give a whole new meaning to suicide bombers. while we're not certain at all that's part of this threat, the fact is he's part of the brain trust there in yemen that's been working on plots and it can't be discounted. i think what they're really worried about here is something on the scale of a mumuby-style ground contact. the partial information is based on interseptz the government heard, major al qaeda figures
talking to one another and that's not real specific. >> >> schieffer: there have been a number of al qaeda escape ease recently, freps places like libya. do we think there's any connection between that? >> there was a big prison break in libya. there was a big prison break in iraq. this is a lot of manpower for an organization somewhat diminished. this week alzhao, the leader of al qaeda, had two messages, one earlier in the week saying, "it's time again to attack the americans and wanted to free the prisoners in guantanamo and called for more unrest in egypt. in the past when the leader of al qaeda has come out with public messages it has sometimes been a "go "signal for operatives on the ground. john miller has been told there are already operatives in place. our government knows that much but we don't know where and we don't know where the target is. >> schieffer: thank you very much, bob. and we want to go directly now to cbs news foreign correspondent clarissa ward, who
is at the u.s. embassy in cairo, which is closed this morning, and where this latest al qaeda threat just adds to the very tense situation there. clarisa, what's the latest? >> reporter: good morning, bob. the u.s. embassy here in cairo is just about 200 yards behind me. you can probably see that blast wall there which cuts off any traffic from getting any closer to the embassy. security is always very tight here, but today the embassy is closed, along with every single other u.s. embassy in the arab world, as well as several others in predominantly muslim countries. now, it's not just diplomats being affected here. cbs news has confirmed at least one other u.s. non-governmentald organization has asked its american employees to stay at home and work from home today. the period of concern appears to be these final few days of the muzz lum holy month of ramadan. this is one of the most important times in the muslim
calendar, and it is expected all these exwaess will open again tomorrow, bob, but the state department has said there may be further closures in the future as it assesses that threat. >> schieffer: and, clarissa, just adding to all of this, now general al sisi who led to the takedown of president morsi and the elected government comes out and in an interview with the "washington post" takes a real swipe at the united states saying egyptians will never forget that we abandoned them in this very tense time. were you a little surprised that he said that? >> reporter: i don't think anybody hear was very surprised. there's a lot of anti-americanism here. in that two-hour interview, sisi basically said the u.s. ignored the will of the egyptian people by refusing to endorse the military takeover and said he only ousted president morse tow prevent this country from
devolving into a state of civil war. he urged the u.s. as well to use its leverage with the muslim brotherhood to try to force them to abandon their protest camps. >> schieffer: you've got a lot to be on the lookout for down there, clarissa, so be very careful this morning. thank you. >> reporter: thank you. >> schieffer: the chairman of the house homeland security committee is in san diego this morning. he and some other members of his committee are inspecting the border situation there and border security. mr. chairman, i want to ask you about this threat we're hearing. what precautions are we taking? is there anything we're not doing we ought to be doing here? >> well, we're on a high state of alert. i have been given every assurance we're doing everything we can to prevent this threat from happening. i must say, this is probably one of the most specific and credible threats i've seen perhaps since 9/11. and that's why everybody is taking this so seriously. in fact the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff called it extremely significant.
the state department's warning with respect to the arabian peninsula is significant as well because as your commentator mentioned, al qaeda in the arabian peninsula is probably the biggest threat to the homeland. theatre al qaeda faction that still talks about hitting the west and hitting the homeland, and their expertise is chemical explosives, hitting the aviation sector. as we saw with the underwear bomber. we on a high state of alert. i think the administration's call to close these embassies, the 21 embassies was actually very-- very smart call, particularly in light of what happened in benghazi when warnings were not heed in that case. i'm glad to see that in this case they're taking this very seriously. and one more thing. you mentioned the prison breaks. i find that to be very interesting as well because we had in abu ghraib, iraq, pakistan, and benghazi, literally thousands of terrorists have been broken out of jailz, and they're spread out
all throughout the middle east now. and that presents a very high threat as well. >> schieffer: mr. chairman, let me ask you, what is it-- can give me some specifics or what is it that has caused you to call this one of the most serious threats since 9/11 that you've heard about? what in particular makes you feel that way? >> well, as you know, i'm confined-- it's classified briefings, but i'll tell you because of the specificity, because of where it is coming from, the credibility of it, the level of chatter, it seems to be a fairly large operation. it's giving the intelligence community quite a bit of pause right now dispp the other thing that one of your commentators mentioned as well, ramadan. why is that important? because tonight is the night of power. it's a night that they try the first attempt on the uss "cole"
style attack. this week 15 years ago they bombed the embassies embassies a and tanzania, and zawahiri has basically set out a decree to the jihadists on his web site saying now is the time to attack u.s. interests. this warning from zawahiri really comes right on the he's of the state department warning, and so that's of grave concern to us. >> schieffer: you know, the fact that, obviously, this information is am category to us from interseptz, is the fact they've been talking about this on the phone, obviously, or in some way, they must know the abilities of the united states in this field, the fact that they're talking about it, does that lead you to believe they're just more confident or could they be just strieg to talk about it to lead us off in odd direction or something here? >> well, you know, i can't talk really about sources and methods, as you know.
however, hopefully the good news is in this case there may have been some loose intelligence on the part of al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. and that's a good thing if that's happening. i have to be very careful about what i say on this, but i will tell you again the threat is-- i perceive very imminent. the one good thing i think about the state department issuing these warnings and the administration is that when you let them know that you know, you put them on their heels, and they oftentimes back down. we've seen that as a counter-terrorism federal prosecutor, we've seen that happen time over time. and so i'm hopeful in this case that, that will happen as well. and i want to assure the american people we are doing everything we to protect them and to prevent this from happening.
>> schieffer: all right, well, thank you so much, mr. chairman, for joining us this morning. in our broadcast center in new york, democratic senator chuck schumer is with us this morning. senator schumer, all of this comes as there is increasing
pressure in congress to rein in the national security agency. do you think this is going to change that debate in any way or should there be more controls on the n.s.a.? >> well, i think what today shows, of course, is that security is very, very important and that the agencies in charge are dawrnd good. they're able to listen in and hear what's going on. they have disrupted many, many, many terrorist plots, and let's hope they're disrupting this one as well. having said that, you know, there's always a balance between security and liberty. and there's always a time to reexamine that. it is appropriate to do that right now, and i do think that reexamination will go forward. my view is very simple-- whenever there is an age-old fight between security and liberty-- cl whichthere has been since the constitution was written-- first there should be
an open debate in both congress and the american people. second, rule should be established. and third-- and i think here's the weakness-- there has to be an independent arbiter to make sure the rules are being enforced and because the fisa court is so secret, people don't know if it's being an effective independent arbiter or not. some say yes, some say no. so a proposal like that of senator merkley which would make the fisa court provisions more public. of course, redacting anything that would affect national security, might make some sense and might let the american people know more what's going on. >> schieffer: you came down pretty hard the other way-- day on edward snowed extent russians when they granted asylum to snowden. he, of course, is the guy who leaked so much of this information. do you think that any of what we're going through right now has anything to do with anything snowden might have leaked that these people have picked up and are now causing them to push
forward on this? >> well, it's much too early to tell that. obviously, these plots that al qaeda does take months and months and months to germinate. so, obviously, they started before that. whether it had an effect, no one knows. but i will say that the relationship between the united states and russia, for instance, is more poisonous than at any time since cold war because of all of this. >> schieffer: well, what about the russians giving snowden asylum. you said the other day it was a stab in the knack. >> yeah. >> schieffer: what should we do now? should we not go to that international economic conference in russia? should the president cancel the individual summit that he had planned with president putin? >> i would urge the president to cancel the bilateral summit he's having with mr. putin. president putin's behaving like a school yard bully, and in my experience, i've learned, unless you stand up to that bully, they
ask for more and more and more, and he's always going out of his way, president putin is, to seem to poke up in the eye, whether it's in iran, syria, now with snowden pep so i would urge the president not to go forward with the bilateral meeting next month. that would give putin the kind of respect he doesn't deserve at this point in time. i would also urge the president to try to urge our allies, if it were possible, to move the g-20 summit away from st. petersburg. some of them may not want to do that. the g-20 summit's important, but certainly on our own end, for the president to meet with putin in a one-on-one meeting later this month would give him respect he doesn't deserve after all he's done. >> schieffer: so you just moved the whole thing-- not only cancel the summit with putin but also move the whole international conference. >> if possible. i think we'd have to, bob, get
the okay of our aexpliez some of them might say no on that one and i still would go forward with that. >> schieffer: why do you think putin did this? this kind of has a high school-like scenario to it. often nations have some reason behind their action. do you think this was a calculated strategy on his part? >> look, i think that president putin feels the loss of russian power, certainly since the end of the cold war, keenly, being an old k.g.b. officer and he's trying to build it back up. the strubl the way he's trying to build it back up is not by strengthening the economy or making rauch a more free and robust place. he percees cute all of his political opponents. but rather by sort of stepping on our back. you know, there's always somebody in any group-- whether business, social organization or business organization-- can bet get a lot of attention by make trouble even though the common good goes in the other
direction. and pint seems to want to build himself up in the negative ways, not the positive ways that a leader often does. i think that's his motivation. in the long run, that doesn't succeed. but in the short run, by standing up to him and showing him those kinds of-- as
you say, sometimes purile actions makes sense and that's why i think we shouldn't go forward with the bilateral summit. >> schieffer: well, senator, thank you very much. you made some news this morning. when we come back we'll hear from former vice presidential candidate republican paul ryan. to help support regularity! i want some... [ woman ] hop on over! [ marge ] fiber the fun way, from phillips'. [ male announcer ] a car that can actually see like a human using stereoscopic cameras... ♪ ...and even stop itself
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in the presidential election last time out. he is a key player in the coming battles on the-- over the fiscal crisis that will be coming up this fall. congressman, i want to just start with where we left off there with senator schumer.
he said the united states ought to not only should president obama not meet with russian president putin but should talk to our allies about moving that whole international economic conference to another country now that russia has decided to give political asylum to edward snowden. what's your reaction to that? >> well, you know, for once bob, i agree with chuck schumer on that. i think president putin thinks he can get away with pushing around this administration because the administration has given sort appeasement feelings that they can do this. the reset policy has been an utter failure. this is a stab in the back. this is a slap in the face. and i actually agree with senator schumer, that has to come with consequences, and i think the administration should proceed just like we just now discussed. >> schieffer: all right. congressman, you said a couple of weeks ago that you thought the n.s.a. surveillance program was creepy when the news first
broke about the collection of phone numbers that they were putting together, and you said it went way beyond the scope, as you understood the patriot act. now, that we have this had new news about this threat and al qaeda plan something sort of an attack, do you still feel that way? >> no, i do think we need to reauthorize and reform this program. a lot of us have learned much, much more about it since it was revealed. the intelligence committee and the judiciary committee are moving forward with reforms of this program. we do have to do more, i believe, to protect our liberties without sacrificing our national security, and i think that can be done. there was a vote to defund the entire program. i didn't support that vote because i think the smarter way to go about it is rewrite the law that authorizes this, gorches, and that's exactly what our intelligence community is doing, reform this program to protect our liberties while making sure we have the necessary tools to protect national security without violating our civil libertys.
i think there's a better way to get that balance. >> schieffer: are you convinced that the n.s.a. is violating our privacy or sort of has the capability to do that? >> well, i think they have the capability. i can't speak to whether they are or not doing that, but i think there are more controls that we can put in place. i think there's a way we can reform the way they do this so that we can guarantee our liberties are not being violated. >> schieffer: let me ask you this: we're going to have this battle come fall about whether to shut down the government if we can't get this fiscal situation worked out, but now some members of your party are talking about threatening to shut downtown government unless the administration agrees not to fund obamacare, the president's health care plan. do you think that's a good idea? >> well, look, we all, republicans, want to repeal and replace obamaed care. seats not a matter of whether or not we want to get rid of
obamacare, we do. we're having a debate about the best course of achieving that goal, the
best strategy. with the government shutdown, so to speak, we're talking about discretionary spending, government agency budgets, but it doesn't affect entitlement. obamacare is an entitlement like medicare and social security so the entitlement carries on. rather than swinging for the fences and trying to take this entire law out with discretionary spending, i think there are more effective ways of achieving that goal. we think that we can do better by delaying this law. we've already had votes to delay other parts of it. democrats have supported us in that. so i think there's going to be a better strategy to actually achieve our goal of ultimately delaying it, ultimately replacing obamacare. >> schieffer: let me ask you about another very controversial issue within your party and that is immigration reform. can your party survive as a major political party if you don't come up with some sort of immigration reform?
i mean, lindsey graham for one says you're in a downward demographic death spiral unless you figure out some way to reform immigration. what do you think the republicans ought to do on that? >> look, i disagree we should approach this issue based on what's right for us politically. we should approach this issue on what we think is the right thing to do, what's the right policy. speaking to that, we are not going tyke up the senate bill in the house because we don't support the senate bill. we have been listening to the american people. what we're going to do is take a step-by-step approach to get immigration right, not a big massive bill but separate bills so people know what's in these bills. number one, bob-- and just look at this terror threat we have-- we don't have control of our border. we don't know who is coming and going in this country. we need real border enforcements and that means we really don't trust the administration with discretion in this area. we need a border enforcement law. we need interior enforcement and we need to fix our legal immigration system. right now people come to this
country based on family relations, not based on skills. most other countries have a legal immigration system that's good for their country and we should do the same. when it comes to people who came here illegal, we want people to get right with the law and that does not include amnesty. we have specific ideas for how come people and get right with the law. that means going on probation. you have it to go on certain terms of probation, pay fines, get a background check, learn english, learn civics and make sure we have independently identified we have secured the borders, and have an e-verify system in place. then and only then can that person get a legal work permit, no special faght way. if a person in this situation wants to get in the line to get a green card, like any other immigrant, but at the back of the line. we think that's the right way to go. that's the opposite of amnesty.
and more importantly, bob, this step-by-step approach i think guarantees we are not in the same mess 10 years from now which is exactly what happened last two times we did immigration reform. we want to get it right and do what's right for national and economic security and our motivation is not what's good for us
politically, because if we think like that we're not going to two it the right way. >> schieffer: i want to thank you for being with us this morning. we'll be back in a minute. wh-five percent of store management started as hourly associates. there's opportunity here. i can use walmart's education benefits to get a degree, maybe work in it, or be an engineer, helping walmart conserve energy. even today, when our store does well, i earn quarterly bonuses. when people look at me, i hope they see someone working their way up. vo: opportunity, that's the real walmart.
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a moment here to note the passing of our good friend and longtime nbc news colleague john palmer. he died yesterday after a brief illness. john palmer was 77. [ male announcer ] this is george. the day building a play set begins with a surprise twinge of back pain... and a choice. take up to 4 advil in a day or 2 aleve for all day relief.
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