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"Face the Nation" transcripts November 18, 2012: Sens. McCain, Durbin, Snowe

November 18: Conflict in Israel - McCain, Dur... 46:16

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on November 18, 2012, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Olympia Snowe, R-Me., and a roundtable of David Ignatius, Tom Ricks, Margaret Brennan and Bob Orr.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. We want to get right to the story in the Middle East. Israel continuing to amass troops on the border with Gaza, 53 Palestinians dead, more than 400 civilians have been wounded there. Three Israelis are dead, more than 50 wounded by rocket fire. The airstrikes go on. The question now, will the Israelis send their ground troops into Gaza? We're going first this morning to Alan Pizzey who is in Tel Aviv -- Allen.

ALLEN PIZZEY, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bob. Well, overnight the Israelis continued to pound positions in Gaza. They've expand their operation away from just purely military targets into the Hamas infrastructure. Interestingly, overnight Hamas did not send any rockets into Israel, but they started again when dawn broke and around about lunchtime here in Tel Aviv, two long-range missiles were aimed at Tel Aviv, they were intercepted by the so-called Iron Dome system, which is a new system the Israelis have put in that detects and interprets and destroys rockets in the air. It's been fairly successful. And, you know, here in Tel Aviv you really wouldn't know anything was going on. The siren goes off, everybody runs, but then they're back out and life is pretty much back to normal. But that doesn't mean to say that everybody isn't tense. There is a huge call up, 75,000 reservists sitting ready to go. The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after a cabinet meeting that Israel would intensify the conflict if it was necessary. Everybody seems to be looking for a way out of this. The Egyptians are really playing a role in this to try to broker it. They've been talking to the Hamas leadership. They've brought in Turkey and Qatar to help them out. And they're all saying we think we might be able to do this. Bear in mind, that this is not the Egypt of Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian government now are Muslim Brotherhood, and so are Hamas. So Israel is in a less-tenable negotiating position, if you will. And they remain militarily strong, but do they really want to go in there on the ground and take hundreds, thousands of casualties among Palestinians? That they've already been warned will cause them to lose what international support they now have. So, it's one of those 50-50 chance things, but it's looking more and more like everybody is looking for a way our. The question is, in a region like this, can they find one, Bob?

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well Allen Pizzey, who always shows up in the worst places where the worst things are going on. Thank you very much, Allen. CBS news correspondent Charlie D'Agata is on the other side of the border in Gaza. Charlie, bring us up to speed. What is the situation like there?

CHARLIE D'AGATA, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the mood here is extremely tense. And the biggest worry is that this dangerous and unpredictable situation may be about to get worse. As we drove through the northern part of the Gaza Strip, we were shown a couple of bombed out buildings. And one looked to be three or four stories high. It completely collapsed in a densely populated neighborhood. We also saw craters in what looked to be in vacant lots, but they may have been targeted because these are the areas suspected to hold rocket launching sites. The Israel military has also started targeting media centers, one of the transmission points that serves as the television channel for Hamas and other broadcasters. The rooftop of this high rise has lots of antennas and satellite dishes on top of it. At the same time, we saw outgoing rockets. We heard a series of loud pops, sort of the signature sign of outgoing weapons. And just a few blocks away from us, we were able to count six smoke trails from where those rockets had just been launched. You can hear drones flying overhead constantly. It has never stopped since we've been here. You can hear a couple at a time at times. We also have heard fighter jets overhead recently. You can also see and hear emergency services, ambulance and fire trucks in the streets. But both sides seem to be ratcheting it up. As soon as we arrived our Palestinian colleagues told us to keep our flak jackets on, even indoors because it had become too dangerous. They said in the last 24 hours they had seen the worst since the fighting began earlier this week.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Charlie, you be careful. And we thank you.

D'AGATA: Thanks, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: And here in the studio with us is David Ignatius of the Washington Post. David, you probably know as much about this part of the world as anybody that I know, least here in Washington. What is the administration doing? Where is the diplomacy headed here?

DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: Well, the administration has been very supportive of Israel initially saying the cause for Israel military action against Gaza was the continuing rain of missile coming from Gaza since the last cease-fire broke down. Israelis told me there have been 700 missiles and they essentially paralyzed the southern part of Israel, people just have to go indoors every time they hear the sirens. In the excellent reports from on the scene from your two correspondents I heard two new things, one the role of the Egyptian president Morsi, a different kind of president that we have seen in Egypt, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, working with another strong Islamist, the prime minister of Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan. The danger for Israel is that they would move away from the cold peace that Egypt has. The opportunity for Israel is that they would take greater ownership of Hamas and broker a cease-fire. The other new thing-- and it is really important - is that Israel is beginning to have a real missile defense. If your viewers go to YouTube and just punch in Iron Dome, which is the name of this system, paid for partly with U.S. tax money, they will see amazingly effective anti-missile technology at work. And that's said to be 90 percent successful. It discriminates between the missiles that are going to hit cities and the ones that are just going to land in the woods and takes out the ones that are headed for cities. And so it's a potential game changer here.

SCHIEFFER: All right, well, David you'll be back if our roundtable a little later in the broadcast. I want to turn now to John McCain, who is a member of the armed services committee, the ranking Republican on armed services. Senator, what can the United States do here? Obviously, no one wants this thing to spiral out of control.

MCCAIN: Well, the United States, obviously, should be as heavily involved as they possibly can. I'm not sure how much influence that this administration has. Remember, the president's first priority in 2009 was the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Obviously, there was no progress there. And there are various reasons for it. We won't waste the time. But I think it's several things make this issue very dangerous. One is Egypt and the whole change in the Middle East as a result of the Arab Spring. Egypt was always a reliable break on these Palestinian factions. Apparently, President Morsi is playing an active role, that's good. The Iron Dome that was just talked about -- if it hadn't been for Iron Dome, the Israelis would be in Gaza right now, and so that's a worthwhile U.S. investment -- when we talk about foreign aid sometimes. And third of all, I think that it's very important that we recognize that the United States of America has got to push as hard as we can to resolve this Israeli-Palestinian issue. And so many events are - hinge on making that process go forward.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what can the president do to get that process going? Again first thing, obviously, is to get this -- get some sort of a cease-fire in place here?

MCCAIN: Well, the first thing I would do is not do what he did back in 2009 and have preconditions on Israel and settlement freezes, that made it a nonstarter among other things.

MCCAIN: The second thing I would do is I would find someone even as high-ranking, frankly, as former President Bill Clinton to go and be the negotiator. I know he'd hate me for saying that, but we need a person of enormous prestige and influence to have these parties sit down together as an honest broker. But we have a lot of work to do to regain some credibility because we're crumbling all over the Middle East. Al Qaeda is on the comeback. You saw in the last couple of days, fighting between the Kurds and Iraqis on the border. The whole Mali situation where al Qaeda has taken over. Al Qaeda training camps are in western Iraq. The Iranians continue, as we see the latest IAEA report on their path towards nuclear weapons. You look at the whole Middle East and it has been a significant failure, not to mention our reset with the Russians.

SCHIEFFER: Let's talk a little bit about Libya. You were talking a lot about that. You and the president really kind of had a little set-to last week over the situation in Libya because you said once again that you would oppose the nomination of Susan Rice to be secretary of state. A lot of people in the administration say she is the odds-on favorite to replace Hillary Clinton. Because of her performance on television after it the Benghazi attacks when she said it was the result of spontaneous demonstrations in Egypt, and not -- and was not a terrorist attack, are you standing fast on that?

MCCAIN: Well, she has a lot of explaining to do. And I'm curious why she has not repudiated those remarks. On this show, the Libyan national president, obviously, said it was al Qaeda. Bob, this goes back to the beginning, this, quote, "light footprint" policy of this presidency. After we helped the Libyans oust Gadhafi, they needed a lot of help, and they could pay for it, by the way, with an army, secure their borders, get rid of these militias. It was in a country that was basically chaotic, and we did almost nothing. And then there became these reports from our embassy and other personnel about attacks on our embassy twice, both in April and in June, the assassination attempt on the British ambassador. The British closed their consulate. The list goes on and on. On August 16th there was a message sent back, we could not repel a sustained attack on our consulate. So what was the State Department doing? What was -- why didn't we on September 11th have military forces capable of intervening in a fight that lasted for seven hours? So all of these questions need to be answered. And finally, for the president of the United States in the second debate said, I said that it was an act of terror in the Rose Garden or September 12th. One, he didn't. That night, we now know, on September 12th in "60 Minutes" he said, quote, "it's too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved." And finally, on September 25th at the United Nations, the president said a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I mean, even on the 25th, after it was well-known this was an al Qaeda-affiliated attack and not a spontaneous demonstration, there still was this obfuscating, and that is not appropriate for the American people.

SCHIEFFER: let me ask you, Senator, because people ask me...

MCCAIN: And could I just say -- finally say, I wish the president wouldn't get mad at me. I wish he would spend our time together in finding out what happened, what caused it, and what we need -- four brave Americans died. Their families and Americans deserve to know and how do we prevent a future occurrence?

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this because this is a question that people ask me. If the administration misled people, if the administration was reluctant to say that this was a work of terrorists, if, in fact, it was, why would they be so reluctant to say that?

MCCAIN: I think you could assume if you're -- you know, you look at their narrative. Their narrative of the president, I got bin Laden, al Qaeda is on the run, that narrative of reelection campaign. He hasn't gotten them. Al Qaeda is not on the run. Al Qaeda is making a strong comeback all over the Middle East. They've got terrorist training camps in Iraq. They've taken over a country, Mali, in North Africa. They're all over Libya. And so it may interfere with that narrative. But, again, also there's one other aspect that we've covered in other times. They said they wanted to not give classified assessment of what happened because they didn't want to betray sources. Well, if classified assessment changed the unclassified assessment, then why in the world would you keep that information from the American people?

SCHIEFFER: In other words, what you're saying is that the unclassified version told one story, and the classified information told another story. It's not they were just withholding details. You're saying they gave two different stories. MCCAIN: Well, it certainly -- without the mention -- the unclassified without the mention of al Qaeda. And we all know now that al Qaeda-affiliated groups were behind this and that it was not a spontaneous demonstration. So we really need to get through this. We need to work together for the sake of these families. But to tell the American people even on the 25th of September when it was well-known, before the United Nations, that, quote, "a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage," we know that. But...

SCHIEFFER: But would you -- Senator, would you be willing to reconsider Susan Rice's nomination, if in fact she's nominated, or if she can explain to you -- give you a better explanation of why she gave the answers the gave?

MCCAIN: I give all -- I think we give all nominees the benefit of a hearing process, et cetera. Maybe she could start out by publicly coming back on this show and saying, I was wrong, I gave the wrong information on your show some several weeks ago. That might be a beginning.

SCHIEFFER: But until then, you will remain opposed to her nomination.

MCCAIN: Under the present circumstances, I don't -- until we find out all the information as to what happened, I don't think you could want to support any nominee right now because this is -- this is very, very serious, and it has even larger implications than the deaths of four Americans. It really goes to the heart of this, quote, "light footprint" policy that this administration has been pursuing. And all of the failures throughout Middle East that are now -- the chickens are now coming home to roost.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Senator, thank you so much for being with us. We'll get another take on this in one minute.


SCHIEFFER: Joining me now from Chicago, the number two Democrat in the Senate leadership, Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator Durbin, we should just start right out with what Senator McCain just said. What's your response?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: Eight years ago, when President Bush suggested Condoleezza Rice for secretary of state, some people said, well, wait a minute, wasn't she part of misleading the American people about intelligence information that led to our invasion of Iraq? And it was Senator McCain and Senator Graham who stood up and said, don't hold her accountable for the intelligence that was given to her, she was simply relating what she had heard. Eight years later, Susan Rice, who may or may not be a nominee for secretary of state, is being held by Senator McCain and Senator Graham to an entirely different standard. What she reported on your show and others was what she was told by the intelligence agencies. As more information came in, that rendition of facts was abridged and changed. But it wasn't her fault. And to say that she has to be held accountable because an intelligence agency didn't tell the whole story initially for reasons of national security is totally unfair.

SCHIEFFER: Well, we -- I would point out just one thing, she came on -- on this broadcast immediately after the president of Libya, who said flatly this was the work of terrorists, some of them from Mali, others outside the country. And Secretary Rice stuck to her -- stuck to her story, as it were, and said, no, our best information is, it was a result, a reaction of those demonstrations that were happening in Egypt. I guess what I would ask you, Senator, do you honestly believe as an ambassador, one of our key ambassadors, to the United Nations, that all Secretary Rice would have known about this was what somebody gave her in a set of talking points to be on television?

DURBIN: Well, Bob, that's exactly what happened. And to say "she stuck to her story" I don't think is accurate. She stuck to the story that was given her by our intelligence agencies a very short time after this incident occurred. Now General Petraeus and others are explaining, well, we didn't quite tell everything because we didn't want to jeopardize friends of the United States and Libya who were providing us with information. To hold Ambassador Rice accountable for a decision by intelligence agencies -- not by her, not by the White House, to withhold some part of the information is fundamentally unfair.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think there's anything, kind of, peculiar about this, though, Senator? I mean, why is it -- why is this controversy going on? Why was the administration reluctant to tell us what we now know they knew?

DURBIN: Well, the intelligence agencies were reluctant, as I mentioned earlier -- they didn't want to compromise sources. That is part of this intricate network of information that keeps America safe. And I understand that. But I also think that this issue was stoked up because it was in the midst of a presidential campaign. Bob, you can remember, throughout history, we have had these terrible incidents. It was under President Reagan that 230 United States Marines were killed in a barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, a terrible tragedy. People didn't call for the impeachment of President Reagan. They said let's find out what happened, hold those responsible accountable. That's the same thing we should do here. And as we hold these hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee, which I attended last week in a classify setting, in the intelligence committees, more and more information comes forward. We'll be able to make America safer and keep those who represent our country in dangerous places safer if we take an honest and objective view of what happened in Benghazi.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, senator, we didn't have a lot of time this morning, but I do want to thank you for coming by and giving that side of the story.

DURBIN: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: I'll be right back with some thoughts of my own on another subject.


SCHIEFFER: I was away a couple of days last week, so when I sat down yesterday morning with my coffee and The Washington Post, I had to read the first paragraph of the story at the top of the page twice. I couldn't believe it. I won't repeat the whole thing, but right there in black and white it said, "The nation's leaders joined hands Friday and pledged fast and far-reaching action to tame the public debt and avoid economic tax hikes set to hit in January."

I'm not exactly an optimist about Congress doing the right thing. You'll get better odds wagering they won't do anything. But Republican and Democratic leaders came out of their meeting with the president Friday smiling and calling it a good meeting. It's been a while since we've heard even that. Republicans said they were serious about finding more revenue to run the government. Democrats said they were serious about spending cuts. Staffers are already working this weekend on the framework of a deal to be presented to the president after Thanksgiving. Now, I've been saying that chances for a deal were slim to none. Well, I'm changing that to a maybe. We are still a long, long way from a deal, but in today's Washington, we are a long way from where we were just a week ago. Back in a minute.


SCHIEFFER: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but for most of you, we'll be right back with an interview with retiring Senator Olympia Snowe and our panel, David Ignatius, Tom Ricks, Bob Orr and Margaret Brennan. Stay with us


SCHIEFFER: Welcome back to Face the Nation. Joining me now Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe. She is a member of the Senate intelligence committee, a well-known moderate Republican who is retiring after 18 years in the Senate. And I have to say, Senator, to me it was another sign, a real sign that our political system is broken when you announced that you were retiring from the Senate, because you just couldn't get anything done there anymore. And it will be the Senate's loss. But we wish you well. Let me just talk to you -- and I do want to talk to you about your reasons and all of that, but first, you're a member of the intelligence commit. Where do you weigh in on this whole Benghazi situation?

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE, (R) MAINE: Well, first and foremost, we have to get to the truth. And as a member of the Senate intelligence committee, we're doing exactly that. We have had at least eight hours of hearings this last week. We intend to have at least three more hearings and publish a report at the conclusion of those hearings. What is most disturbing, in my estimation, is the discrepancy about those talking points and the reality that existed on the ground, and why the administration wasn't able to get the information and a more accurate picture of what transpired and delivered to the American people with confidence, and pulling the pieces together in a way that we knew exactly who was responsible you know, for killing four of our Americans and attacking our facilities. And, unfortunately, they didn't do that. It took so long. In fact, it took 17 days for the director of national intelligence even to issue a statement to say that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack. That's unacceptable in today's environment.

SCHIEFFER: Do you have any answers yet as to why -- we know that they had asked to maintain their -- the current level of security and that was turned down. Do we have any idea on what that decision was based on?

SNOWE: No. And we're still getting to the bottom of that. That's one of my primary concerns. And that's certainly what I'm driving to first of all, why there was failure for adequate security at the temporary mission. And secondly, why they didn't assess the security risks posed to that facility? They had abundance of threat reports and incidents, both to that facility and other consulates that would have suggested that they were in a high-threat environment. I sponsored -- I cosponsored the initial legislation -- I was the lead Republican in the House -- to create this diplomat security bureau and the accountability review board that also has been initiated so we can get to the bottom of it who is responsible. But essentially there was very minimal security. There were the physical barriers weren't sufficient. The attackers, the mob, overran the complex. The militia that we were depending on disbursed, did not provide any defense. And we had very few security personnel in the most high threat environment possible.

SCHIEFFER: On the anniversary of 9/11.

SNOWE: Exactly.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this, have you established why the ambassador went there on 9/11. I mean, obviously, the ambassador in any country knows the intelligence situation. He should be the most informed person in the country, because the station chief of the CIA reports to him, basically, as does everyone else in the country. Do we know why he went there?

SNOWE: Well, my understanding is that he had pre-established meetings, obviously aware of the environment that existed there. But he liked to commingle with the people in Libya and in Benghazi. And, you know, had prepared for this trip and didn't disrupt it in making those decisions about preplanned activities. But it's clear, we've got a lot of answers to secure regarding the overall lack of security and why the intelligence community weren't -- wasn't able to get the message out and the administration as to why we didn't have a full and complete pictures too who was responsible in the days following that event.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, I want to ask you about your retirement, because I really did think it was kind of a marker in time. When a member of the Senate would say this is no longer the place that one can accomplish anything. This must been a hard decision for you.

SNOWE: It was very much so, Bob. And I appreciate your comments. And I did. And It was something I had to think about, and I started to think about the future of the senate and what had transpired. It wasn't what I had been accustomed to in building bipartisan bridges. And I felt I could be a more effective voice on the outside and building bridges and providing a support system and a network to support members of congress who are willing to work across the political aisle. I'm building a web site, through social media as well, so people reward those individuals who are willing to compromise.

SCHIEFFER: What has gone wrong? When I came to Washington people compromised. Now it's a dirty word. When did that happen?

SNOWE: Well, you know, it's a good question. It happened, unfortunately, very rapidly. And somehow people think that compromising is capitulating on your principles. You couldn't be far from it. People understand you have got to solve problems, so you've got to talk to people whom you disagree. And so I thought how best that I contribute my 34 years of experience and voice on the outside so that we don't return to this kind of dysfunction ever again, especially at this moment in time for our history. But the essence of public service is solving problems. And we've lost that central purpose. And we have to return to it. And hopefully, we have some starters here with the fiscal cliff decisions, that we can have confidence-building measures in the final analysis. Because there's a sense of urgency. So hopefully the conciliation of words will turn into urgency of action.

SCHIEFFER: Are you optimistic at all about them finding some way to get past this fiscal cliff?

SNOWE: I think they will. You know, I think on the short term they have to, because every tick of the clock is going to ratchet up the risk to the economy. We've already seen a 600-point drop in the Dow Jones. Europe has returned to a recession. We could trigger a double-dip recession. So we can ill afford to repeat the debacle surrounding the debt ceiling crisis in 2011 that created based on one study the highest level of policy uncertainty over the last 20 years, surpassing the wars, surpassing 9/11, and even surpassing the financial crisis. So, we have no choice. So, I hope they have gotten the message from the last election. People want their elected officials to work together.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, I want to thank you for being with us this morning. I want to wish you the best of luck, and Washington will be less because are you no longer a member of the Senate. We wish you well.

SNOWE: Thank you, Bob, very much for those kind words.

SCHIEFFER: And we'll be back in one minute.


SCHIEFFER: Well, there's been a lot going on in Washington this week, to say the least: the investigation into what happened in Benghazi, what happened to General Petraeus. We're going to talk to our panel now back again. Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius, longtime defense writer for the Washington Post, Tom Ricks, now the author of a new book called "The Generals: American Military Command From World War II to Today" and CBS News State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan -- Margaret, welcome to you - and CBS News Justice correspondent Bob Orr who has been following all of this situation. Let's talk -- let's just start here at home. Where are we on all of this situation involving these investigations into General Petraeus, into Benghazi? I mean, Bob, how many investigations are going?

ORR: I know of three right now, Bob. The CIA inspector-general is doing an internal review of whether or not former director Petraeus misused any agency assets during his 14 months on the job. So that's number one. Number two, the Department of Defense inspector-general is looking into these communications and e-mail between General Allen and Jill Kelley, this Tampa socialite. And there are some interesting developments there. This started out as a raft of information. We were told 20,000 to 30,000 emails and communication back and forth. And then that was adjusted downward to a couple of hundred. Now we're told it's just a handful of questionable and perhaps problematic e-mails. And then of course the third track involves Paula Broadwell, the biographer of Petraeus. And the FBI still has an investigation into Broadwell because of her handling and perhaps her mishandling of classified information. And beyond that, there could be other investigations, frankly, that we're not aware of.

SCHIEFFER: You know, Tom Ricks, I was struck by something you wrote in an op-ed or something someplace where you said you didn't approve of General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, but you also thought it was none of your business. Elaborate on that a little bit.

RICKS: I think there are two scandals in the whole Petraeus affair. The first scandal is why the FBI was looking into lovers' quarrels. The second and more troubling to me is that we seem to care more about the sex lives of our generals than the real lives of our soldiers. Everybody can tell you the name of Paula Broadwell, nobody can tell you the name of the Americans killed in Afghanistan in the last week. I saw some stats that said there were about 50 casualties in Afghanistan, which is dead and wounded, since Petraeus - the Petraeus affair came out. Nobody is paying attention to that. To me, a real scandal is that we tolerated years of mediocre generalship in Iraq before Petraeus actually did a good job there. A real scandal is that we've had 11 years and 11 commanders in Iraq, that's no way to run any business or any operation, that fast turnover. I come away wondering why Americans don't pay attention to these wars until they become titillating.

SCHIEFFER: David, is that because we now have the all-volunteer force and, you know, people who don't have a relative or someone they know involved in the military -- and I know a lot of people that don't know a single person in the military. I mean, I can remember World War II as a little boy, everybody knew somebody that was involved. Somehow now we don't seem to know the people in the military. And they don't know us any more. Is this what Tom is talking about?

IGNATIUS: I think so. To a disturbing extent, the military has become a different tribe in American society. It's a tribe that Americans value enormously from a distance, when soldiers walk through airports, they get spontaneous congratulations. When they walk on airplanes, people stand up and want to shake their hands. I had a senior military officer say to me a couple days ago, this is not a healthy situation for us. We need to be part of the country. We need to be judged by reasonable standards. Tom makes a great point that we need to judge our generals by their performance. And if their performance isn't good, we shouldn't sing their praises as these wonderful volunteers - we need to say perhaps another commander is appropriate. In the case of General Petraeus, the only thing I take issue with Tom about is -- I think General Petraeus would say this himself-- CIA personnel are expected to report any contact they have with people who could have power over them, who could be in a position where they knew things that the disclosure could be embarrass or worse and make the official with classified information vulnerable. And CIA personnel are held to that rule. And you have to hold the director to it. And it's clear that General Petraeus recognized the fact of that. That doesn't go to some of the larger issues that are being spun as this thing gets faster and faster.

SCHIEFFER: Margaret, perhaps more important than all of that is this investigation going on into what actually happened in Benghazi. Where are we in all of that? You heard John McCain this morning, then you heard Dick Durbin, and then you heard Olympia Snowe. How is this impacting out at the State Department?

BRENNAN: This is one of the most sensitive topics, people feel very personal and take this in a very personal way, this attack. But then you also get foreign service officers on the sidelines who will say to you, "we are very concerned about security. We are very concerned about other soft targets out there." The Department of Defense and the State Department are reviewing other compounds right now to see if other Benghazis could exist. There's a real question about the relationship between the CIA and the State Department, how they coexist in some of these locations and support each other. But we're really stuck in this lightning rod right now, this question of why the - "the T word" and (inaudible) over classified when we knew within the first 24 hours there was credible intelligence that suggested that's what happened in Benghazi.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask the obvious question, I asked Olympia Snowe, why were they so reluctant to talk about terrorism? I mean, Bob?

ORR: You know, the people I talk to at CIA and other places around town knew pretty early on that there were elements of Islamic radical groups involved in the attack. Specifically this group in Libya Ansar al Sharia and some tentacles reaching out to al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb. So early on, they knew there were some loose association if nothing else, of people who participated in this attack on the consulate. When the information got over to the White House, al Qaeda became extremists, and when Susan Rice went on television, went on this program to talk about what she knew, she took perhaps the most benign interpretation of the information in front of her. But to be clear, this happened in the political season when everything is politicalized and put through the prism. And I think it's -- we knew what we knew at the beginning and that really hasn't changed.

SCHIEFFER: Well, do we think that they changed this around for political reasons, Tom?

RICKS: I think the phrase "in the political season" is the most importance phrase. It really strikes me that no one can tell me how many security contractors were killed in the Iraq war. And I've looked into this, working on my books on the Iraq War. Everybody seems to tell you about the four people in Benghazi. So I'm a little bit suspicious of the motive in talking about Benghazi so much when nobody's paying attention to this stuff for years.

IGNATIUS: I would just make one point, the dirty little secret here is that our intelligence analysts don't know even now how all these factors came together outside the consulate on the night of September 11 so that the consulate was overrun. And that was the-- one of the problems in the days immediately after. They did have intelligence that people linked with al Qaeda were in that crowd. But in terms of pre-planning, of directives from al Qaeda in the Maghreb, or other senior al Qaeda leadership to those people to do something, they don't have that. They had very quickly intelligence that people in that group that attacked the consulate were watching what happened in Cairo live on TV. And they had surveillance of them talking about it, and then they go to the consulate to attack. So they were trying to figure out what's the mix of that spontaneous driver and the fact that we know there's part of organized terrorist groups. And, you know, there is a fog of intelligence analysis and that's a part of what you're seeing here.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what I am having trouble with, is anyone -- no one should be more informed or what the situation is in the country than the ambassador. He should have access to all the intelligence and ambassadors do. Why would the ambassador go to Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11-- obviously, that was a date to be considered in any kind of moment -- why did he go, Margaret?

BRENNAN: He was supposed to be there to open a cultural center there in Benghazi that's why he was officially there. We may not get some of the answers to these questions until Secretary Clinton goes to the Hill with the probe that the State Department did in her hand. Sources tell us that probably won't be until the end of December. A lot of that information is going to be about the questions that the State Department has asked themselves. It won't necessarily get us inside the White House. It won't necessarily get us inside the CIA and some of their decision making, but it will lay out what happened, when the requests were made for security, and why, perhaps, they weren't fulfilled in the way that some have said in hindsight they should have been. SCHIEFFER: Bob, I want to go back to you with all these investigations going on. Do you see any prosecutions coming here?

ORR: There's going to be a lot of political pressure, I think, on the FBI at the end of the day to produce something, that's just my opinion. But you have the CIA director stepping down. You have General John Allen who is nominated to be the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe now under a cloud of suspicion. At the end of the day, it's hard to imagine you dust your hands off and say, "well, that was messy." I think there is going to be at least some internal and probably internal and probably external pressure in the FBI to pursue a case, and most likely against Paula Broadwell, I think. The one thing that might be prosecutable that we know about was her handling of classified information. She had clearance to have access to the classified information. What she didn't have, and what people with clearances don't have, is permission to take that information outside of the secure realm. They found it in her home. They found it in her files. And we need make a point-- she's been cooperative with investigators about this. And it really would be a relative smack on the hands, I think, to prosecute that charge but nevertheless it might produce something at the end of the day.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, and that's something that is not taken lightly in security circles. Who was it John Deutche...

ORR: Former CIA director who was fired for...

SCHIEFFER: ...director who was fired because he took classified information home with him.

RICKS: I don't know, it all reminds me of the nanny tax kerfuffle of about 15 years ago. If you hang around the U.S. military, you're constantly getting classified information. It is handed to you, to explain things. If you embed with headquarters in Bagram or something, you sit in on intelligence briefings. So this sort of technical thing of you had it on the wrong laptop, I just find that sort of the smallest bureaucratic possible outcome and almost meaningless.

SCHIEFFER: What's going to happen in Israel, David?

IGNATIUS: Well, I think Israel is poised, ready to attack, showing it's ready to attack. I don't think it wants to. The question that I hear Israelis and U.S. officials asking is where does this lead? I mean, is Israel really in a situation where it has no alternative but every five or six years to take a pop at its adversaries, which is what one Israeli official told me, or is there some pathway toward greater stability, and could it involve a new government in Egypt, which is close to Hamas and could draw Hamas, could take more ownership of events? So that's where I think everybody would like to see it head. Obama has worked hard to talk to Morsi and to Erdogan in Turkey to try to steer it in that direction. Will that happen? Usually the right bet in the Middle East is that good things won't happen. And the most phones call that Secretary Clinton has made from the road have been to her counterpart in Egypt. And they have been very clear that Egypt has the relationships; they have the credibility; and they have the influence in the region to push Hamas to stop the attacks.

BRENNAN: Now, there is also a fair amount of funding being held up in Washington right now that the Egyptians need very immediately. Remember, they weren't just one of the top recipients of foreign aid; they have a funding crisis. They have literally been to the point where they have had problems paying bills. And so there are -- there is some immediate leverage to get them to act immediately. Whether that ends up being effective or not is another question.

SCHIEFFER: Well, do we think the administration -- obviously, I would guess they're advising the Israelis not to invade. But what beyond that are they trying to do? Is this an opening to start a -- the peace process to get it started again, David, or...

IGNATIUS: If -- Bob, if -- if Morsi and Erdogan of Turkey, those key players, in working toward a cease-fire -- we're likely to have a cease-fire here. We'll either have a cease-fire or we'll have an Israeli invasion. If there's a cease-fire, that is the kind of thing that can be a building block. And if you can pull everybody together, as mad as the Egyptians will be, as indignant, that's the start of a process of discussion. That would be a good step.

RICKS: Do you think Lebanon's next?

IGNATIUS: Well, if -- some people think that what this is about is in preparation for a likely war with Iran, Israel testing the -- the rockets that would be fired against it from Gaza, next from Lebanon, so that we may see something with Lebanon soon because it's a preliminary; this is a, kind of, warm-up round for the real conflagration that's ahead that involves Iran.

SCHIEFFER: Do you really think there's a chance that Israel would strike Iran and try to take out those nuclear...

RICKS: Yes, especially given the timing of the Gaza thing. They waited until after the American elections were over and now they're getting down to business.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thank you all very much. Let's hope everything comes out well here. I'm not sure we got any information that indicated it will here today...


SCHIEFFER: But we can always hope. We'll be right back.


SCHIEFFER: Well, that's it for today. Before we go, we want to tell you that CBS News is announcing today that Major Garrett of National Journal is joining us as our new chief White House correspondent. Major was a frequent contributor to our campaign coverage this year, and he'll continue to write a column for National Journal. We hope to see him often here on "Face the Nation." So, welcome, Major. We'll be back next week with our annual Thanksgiving weekend book show, when we interview the authors of our favorite books of the year. So we'll see you then.

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