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Transcript: House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Turner on "Face the Nation," Dec. 3, 2023

Turner: U.S. assisting Israel on intelligence gathering
U.S. assisting Israel to find intelligence "gaps" ahead of Oct. 7 attack. Rep. Mike Turner says 07:55

The following is a transcript of an interview with House Intelligence Committee chair Rep, Mike Turner, Republican of Ohio, that aired on Dec. 3, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're joined now by the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Turner. 

REP. MIKE TURNER: Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good to have you here. So our colleagues here at CBS have heard from more Israeli soldiers, mainly female, saying that they had reported up the chain of command warnings about a potential Hamas attack. The New York Times, the FT. They have details, specific ones going back a year. The White House says this wasn't shared with the U.S. intelligence. If this is America's closest Mideast ally, should that concern us?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well, I think what you saw was just a general dismissal by Israel and Israel's intelligence community of the possibility of this level of a threat, which really goes to, you know, the complete breakdown that occurred here. It's been amazing to have our intelligence community now working closely with the Israeli intelligence community and see the gaps that they have. And this obviously could have been an institutional bias that the result of them dismissing it, but the other aspect that made this so dangerous, is that even when the October 7th began to unfold, their their forces didn't react, they didn't have the deployment ability to respond, not just the intelligence ability to prevent it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which raises questions now about have those gaps been filled? How can you take Israeli assurances that everything they're doing is precise and targeted? And exact? Does the United States know where Yahya Sinwar, the-the commander, who was the architect of this is? Israel says that he's in South Gaza.

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well, certainly the United States is assisting in the location of Hamas leadership as Israel moves to eliminate the threat of Hamas. And I just received a briefing from CIA Director Burns on Friday, who just came back from the Middle East. He's been working diligently, he's doing a great job on negotiating for the release of hostages, and also in trying to make certain that our intelligence apparatus is working closely with Israel to try to fill some of those gaps that they clearly have.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, when it comes to what the United States is doing for our own standards for our own government, we have to have a nearly certain standard when it comes to counter terrorism, lethal operations, positive ID of the target, no civilian casualties. Should we hold our allies who we provide with weapons and intelligence to that exact same standard?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well, I can tell you that- that we are being selective as to the information that's being provided. It's one thing to be able to look to try to identify a specific individual, and provide information as to their location and operations, and actually directing an operation. I mean, Director Burns has been very clear that we are not just providing direct access to our intelligence, and that certainly gives us the ability to have caution.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Is Israel though, operating on that intelligence to the level to the standard, that they should, that the United States holds itself to? Because we just heard from the defense secretary and the Vice President, that it certainly sounds the U.S. assessment is they're not

REP. MIKE TURNER: With respect to use of U.S. intelligence, I can tell you that that's certainly how the United States is operating and holding them to that standard. Now, broadly, as you've reported, the United States is very concerned to the extent that Israel is not doing enough to protect civilians. And certainly the issue goes even broader to the issue of humanitarian aid being provided to the Palestinians who are equally prisoners of Hamas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can aid, which is being bundled in the Senate with Ukraine aid, to Israel and Ukraine get through the Republican controlled House, if the stipulation, as I understand it from the Speaker of the House, is that it has to also include provisions regarding the U.S. border? 

REP. MIKE TURNER: Sure. Speaker Johnson's doing a great job. And he is directly negotiating both with the White House and with the Senate on the aid package, which would include aid to Israel, aid to Ukraine, and also Southeast Asia. But more importantly, in the negotiation process, it would include changes in our southern border policy, which even director Wray has identified as a national security threat. Those negotiations are ongoing, and it's going to take the administration coming to the table and recognizing that their policy needs to change. America overwhelmingly wants the southern border addressed, it represents a national security threat, as his own security advisors are telling him. You know, we can't have millions of people continue to cross our border, and at all believe that we have, you know, a secure country with our national security. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: What's the specific on that? Because the White House is asking for like $14 billion. Are you saying the money is not enough, you want an overhaul of immigration policy that hasn't happened in decades? And for that to happen in the next three weeks?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well, actually, there have been things that happened. If you look back at the Trump administration, where they had positions that policies such as remain in Mexico, there were policies that were working, that were keeping the southern border controlled where the number of people–

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's a specific ask now? 

REP. MIKE TURNER: And that is a specific ask now with the number of people crossing is diminished. The administration can make changes which other administrations have enforced, that-that change the difference. It's the reversal of those policies that have caused Biden's southern border policies to be a failure and the millions of people to have entered our country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So I want to ask you something else that Congress I know you think needs to get done in a very short period of time, and that is reauthorizing section 702. We talked about it there as directly related to America's own terror threat and being able to have warrantless surveillance powers. Mark Warner, your colleague over in the Senate, says the main challenge to getting this done, your Ohio Republican colleague, Jim Jordan, who he says wants to take the FBI out of the process. So can you get Jordan and the Freedom Caucus, of which your speaker is a member, on board with this?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well, I think so. 702 is one of our most important tools for monitoring foreign individuals located outside the United States who pose a national security threat to our country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it's about to expire- 

REP. MIKE TURNER: And that's about to expire at the end of the year. It does not monitor United States citizens. I think there are those who look at the behavior of the FBI and want to punish the FBI foolishly by cutting off one of our most important tools to target at foreign individuals. It certainly is also one of our most important tools that we're using to help Israel in this conflict.


REP. MIKE TURNER: It allows us to monitor- Through this program, we monitor Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, some of our most ardent adversaries are monitored in this program. And certainly we shouldn't punish the FBI for what they've done in other areas to hinder our ability to track terrorists and our adversaries.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Has Speaker Johnson committed to taking this version that the intelligence chairs are proposing versus Jim Jordan's version that wants to take the FBI out of this?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Right. So we have a bill. Myself, Jim Himes, Darren LaHood, Brian Fitzpatrick, Senator Warner, Senator Rubio and Senator Cornyn have a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would address some of the past abuses of the FBI, prevent them in the future, and also reauthorized 702. The speaker is very supportive of that. We've just got to get it over the line. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: How? What do you attach it to?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well, and that's the problem, because so- I do think we've got substance on our side. Yeah, this is the way to go. The individuals who want to hinder this process, really, I think, fully don't fully understand how the process works, and are really not understanding the value and the importance of this to our national security.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  But then what we do see is Speaker Johnson saying yesterday on Fox he's going to hold a vote on the impeachment inquiry into President Biden. You're talking about something of immediate national security, threat, immediacy in timing, needing to prioritize that but we're going to have an impeachment inquiry vote instead? 

REP. MIKE TURNER: You know, this is some of the legacy of the chaos that has happened in Congress where the-those who wanted to shut down the government at the end of summer are some of those that want to stop the reauthorization of 702 .

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Are you going to vote for this impeachment inquiry next week?

REP. MIKE TURNER:  We'll have to see what the evidence and the- and the information is, and it has not yet been presented delivered a top priority, though, you know, you can have more than one priority. Certainly, I think, you know, protecting and enforcing our laws is a priority. But in this 702 is critical. It needs to be reformed and reauthorized. And the speaker is certainly committed to both those goals.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. It's always good to have you here in person, Mike Turner.

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