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Interview With Maine Senator Angus King; National Protests Continue; CIA Director Defends Interrogation Tactics

Aired December 11, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: war of words over torture.

New reaction to the CIA director's rare public response to a bombshell Senate report. We have top Intelligence Committee members in Congress. They are standing by.

Hands up. A powerful image up on Capitol Hill, African-American staffers walking out. We're following new protests against police killings and whether demonstrators are staying on message.

California drenching. Millions face the threat of dangerous flooding, pounding winds, massive waves and even heavy snow.

And shutdown countdown. Lawmakers are running out of time to pass a budget bill and keep the federal government running. Will they beat the deadline?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following two breaking stories, a ferocious storm churning through Northern California, packing howling winds, threatening to unleash major flooding and landslides. About 150,000 customers already have lost power in the San Francisco area alone. We will have much more on this story coming up.

We're also getting in fresh reaction to the CIA director, John Brennan. He delivered a rare public defense of his agency and its integrity after the release of a blistering Senate report on harsh interrogation tactics. He also acknowledged mistakes and practices that were, in his words, abhorrent.

The Senate Intelligence Committee member Angus King, he's standing by live. We also have our correspondents, our analysts, other newsmakers with us this hour as we cover all the breaking news.

But, up first, our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.


Here in Washington, D.C., of course, CIA headquarters is one of the most secure buildings. But, today, in that building in front of the world's television cameras, the spymaster, the head of the secret agency drew back the curtain just a bit.


STARR (voice-over): In a 45-minute-long press conference, CIA Director John Brennan never used the word torture to describe interrogation practices.

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: As I said, in some instances, I considered them abhorrent and I will leave to others how they might want to label those activities.

STARR: In an extraordinary move, Brennan spoke to reporters, defending his agency, reminding everyone of the difficult challenges after 9/11.

BRENNAN: In our pain, we pledged to come together as one and to do what we could to prevent Osama bin Laden and his killing machine from ever carrying out another attack.

STARR: It led to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques against CIA detainees, water-boarding, being put in stress positions, deprived of sleep, chained to walls. Brennan admitted mistakes were made by some, but never said the so-called enhanced interrogation program was a mistake overall.

BRENNAN: I cannot say with certainty whether or not individuals acted with complete honesty. When I look at what went on at the time, there are clearly the questions about why certain techniques were used.

STARR: And in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, did enhanced interrogation actually result in intelligence critical to finding him?

BRENNAN: I'm not going to attribute that to the use of the EITs. I'm just going to state as a matter of fact the information that they provided was used.

STARR: As Brennan spoke at CIA headquarters, Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein tweet-stormed. "CIA helps keep our nation safe, strong. Torture does not."

Brennan said there's no proof enhanced interrogation was the reason detainees offered up useful information.

BRENNAN: The cause-and-effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.

STARR: Feinstein on Twitter, "CIA says unknowable if we could have gotten the intel other ways. Studies show it is knowable. CIA had info before torture."

(END VIDEOTAPE) STARR: Now, Brennan also went on to say that he does believe

there's a strong prospect coercive interrogation methods do lead in fact to false information. He said prisoners, detainees, often, they give that false information. The record shows they do, that sometimes they just want to make it stop -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, good report. Thanks very much.

While the CIA is confronting allegations of torture, the director, John Brennan, was also asked about another controversy hanging over the agency right now. The question came from CNN justice reporter Evan Perez. Take a listen.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Your agency is involved in overseeing the drone program in which we know from the government's own statements, you know, that there have been some civilians, innocent civilians, killed alongside terrorists. I'm wondering if you feel that there's enough control over those programs and that we're not going to be here in a few years with another director having to answer these same questions about the loss of trust from the public, from policy makers.

BRENNAN: I'm not going to talk about any type of operational activity that this agency is involved in currently. I'm just not going to do it.

I will tell you, though, that during my tenure at the White House as the president's assistant for counterterrorism, that the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles that you refer to as drones, in the counterterrorism effort, has done tremendous work to keep this country safe.


BLITZER: Evan, you're joining us now. Evan Perez asked that good question, a tough question.

What did you think of his answer?

PEREZ: Well, Wolf, there was a lot of nervousness in the room when John Brennan gave that answer.

He was not confirming the existence of this program, because it's still secret over at the CIA. But he was answering the question as a former White House official who oversaw it. And what you heard from him was a strong defense of the program. He was saying that they have taken great care to make sure that innocents are not killed alongside terrorists.

But obviously there are times when they have been, Wolf. You know, this really shows us that they're thinking about what happens 10 years from now, when a lot of these documents come out on this program, and we will have a reckoning of what exactly has been going on, how well this was being managed by the CIA and this White House, Wolf.

BLITZER: Evan Perez, good question. Thanks very much.

Let's get reaction to what we heard from the CIA director, John Brennan, today.

Joining us now, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the independent Senator from Maine Angus King.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

Let me get quickly your response to what we just heard. Do you have a problem with the way the Obama administration over these six years has been using this drone program, not to capture terrorists, not to interrogate terrorists, but to simply kill them and in the process, as we all know, there's collateral damage. Innocent civilians are killed in the process as well.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: As a member of the Intelligence Committee, Wolf, I can't -- have to give a similar answer to what John Brennan gave, which is, I can't confirm anything about a covert program. And I'm not going to do that.

I can tell you that our committee is very actively overseeing the activities over of the CIA, and I think I will leave it at that.

BLITZER: But you oversee, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, the CIA. And so without revealing any classified information, the drone program is obviously very well-known. Do you have a problem, without going into specifics, and I don't want you to break any of the classification rules, do you as a United States senator, who oversees this program, have problem with it?

KING: I believe that the CIA is acting within the law and the intentions right now. That's as far as I want to go. You're trying to get me to say something I'm not...


BLITZER: No, I don't want you to break any rules. I don't want you to violate sources and methods or anything like that.

KING: And I'm not ducking the question. I'm just trying to follow the rules.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, the critics of President Obama, they say, yes, he didn't like the torture, he didn't like the excessive interrogation, but these people, except for one that we know of in Afghanistan, they lived to talk about it, they're still alive to this very day.

When you send out a drone with a Hellfire missile and you go into Pakistan or Afghanistan or Yemen or someplace and you just kill them, in the process, you might kill relatives or family members. They're not going to be interrogated. They're just going to die.

KING: Again, Wolf, I can't confirm any information about the program. I'm sorry.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about transparency right now. You were part of the group that wanted to release the 600 pages, unclassified, redacted.

The CIA director, John Brennan, he has a problem with what you did this week. I will play this clip and I will let you respond.


BRENNAN: I think there's more than enough transparency that has happened over the last couple days. I think it's over the top.


BLITZER: Over the top he said. He's concerned about what you guys did.

KING: Well, first, before we get into that, I want to say one quick thing where I agree with John Brennan.

There are real patriots at the CIA. There are great people there. I have met them. Whenever I travel abroad, I meet with them because I'm on the committee. They're brave people serving our country under difficult circumstances.

One of the tragedies of this situation is that the actions of a relatively few people has tainted the whole agency. And it's sort of too bad that it's all -- it's the CIA. It was a portion of the CIA. So I want to get that straight.

I think what's happened this week has been exactly what the country needed. It has ignited a discussion about who we are, what our values are, and it's ignited a discussion about torture and whether it works and whether it's effective. And I think that's exactly what we needed, and it wouldn't have happened otherwise.

And that's why I voted to release the report. By the way, the vote to release the report was 11-3. It was a pretty strong bipartisan vote. And I think what we have seen in this week has been, you know, there's been a lot of back and forth. But we have seen a lot of information and it's people that -- it's information that the American people had a right to get.

BLITZER: But when he says you have gone over the top in releasing too much information, I think what he's referring to is what we heard from the secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, this week, the FBI director, James Comey, this week, the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, this week.

They're issuing these bulletins and these alerts. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, we're going to be speaking with him later. He says there will be violence and deaths as a result of your decision to release all this information. Your response to these officials, these Cabinet members in the Obama administration? KING: Well, number one, they're right to issue an alert and to

raise the threat level. I don't think anybody that can deny that there's a potential for our enemies to seize on this as an excuse.

But, listen, we have learned over the last year that ISIS doesn't need an excuse to do barbaric things and to attack America. That's what they do. That's what they have been doing. That's what their predecessors have done for 10 years.

If we say, we're not going to release information to the American people and to the world because we're afraid somebody else is going to misinterpret it and do bad things, that would lock up our entire effort to inform our public.

The other piece is, Wolf, it's not the report that's likely to inflame people. It's what was done. And that's why we have got to say that we're not going to do this again. The damage to this country, as John McCain made clear in one of the most brilliant and powerful speeches I have ever heard in the Senate, day before yesterday, said the damage to the country that's been done by this far outweighs any benefit that we got.

BLITZER: But are you concerned that Americans might die because this report was released?

KING: Of course I'm concerned if Americans die under any circumstances.

But I don't think there's any higher likelihood. We have seen ISIL do barbaric things without any reference to this report. They may use it as an excuse, but I don't think that means that they're going to do something that they wouldn't have done otherwise. I don't think there's any evidence.

BLITZER: We will take a quick break.

But if you listen to administration, Obama administration officials, whether at the FBI or the CIA or the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, what they're concerned about is this report will inspire lone wolves, inspire others to go out there and seek revenge.

KING: Well, and they were saying this wasn't a good time to release it. John Kerry's call to Dianne Feinstein was, well, it's not really a good time. We have got all these things going on.

There's never a good time. And we had from the White House, and from the highest levels of the intelligence agency, their view was, it needs to be released.


BLITZER: Senator King, I want you to stand by. I have more questions to ask you.

We're going to have much more coming up. A powerful news conference today over at Langley, Virginia, CIA

headquarters. We are going to get more reaction to what we heard. Stay with us.


BLITZER: We're back with the Senate Intelligence Committee member Senator Angus King of Maine. We're discussing the CIA director's unusual public remarks today about brutal tactics used to interrogate terror suspects.

Should anyone be held accountable for what even John Brennan today called the abhorrent tactics that were occasionally used against these terror suspects?

KING: Wolf, I'm not into looking back and looking and trying to figure out whether somebody should be prosecuted or lose their job or those kinds of things.

I think the important thing, this is a big issue. And the important thing is that we learn from it and that we not do it again. I think that -- I'm not -- I don't think prosecution would serve any purpose. I really think that we need to look forward and say we're not going to do this again.

BLITZER: So you don't agree with Senator Mark Udall of Colorado that Brennan should be fired?

KING: I don't. I don't. I just don't.

I think that distracts from the issue. The big news that John Brennan made today in my opinion was his very emphatic statement that the intelligence -- whether intelligence resulted from these so-called enhanced interrogation techniques was unknowable.

He emphasized the word unknowable. That's a far cry from what we have been told for the last five years and as recently as this week, people going on TV, writing editorials and those kinds of things, saying it absolutely led to new evidence.

BLITZER: Because, on that point, on Tuesday, the CIA point out a statement saying: "Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs, enhanced interrogation techniques, were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives."

That's what they said on Tuesday.

KING: And today he said it's unknowable. And I think, frankly, he's much more accurate today.

And if you go into the Senate report, look, I came in -- I wasn't on the committee when this report was put together. I came in just at the beginning of 2013. I had fresh eyes. And I sat and read the report. I took a whole week and went in every night with a Subway sandwich and a Coke and read the thing cover to cover, the 500 pages. And I got progressively sick, disgusted, and angry. It is very

powerful, and a very strong case is made that this did not lead to...


BLITZER: Here's what undermines the report, though. And this is what Brennan himself said today. He said: "No CIA personnel were interviewed by the committee during the course of the investigation. This was unusual."

You had five years to talk to those directly responsible. The Senate Intelligence Committee made a conscientious decision not to talk to anyone from the CIA, and that raises all sorts of questions about -- you can go through documents all the time, but why not talk to those who are directly responsible?

KING: Well, there are two responses. One is, documents don't lose their memory or have selective memories.

But, number two, the committee wanted to do the interviews, but Eric Holder opened a criminal investigation the continued into 2011, and we weren't allowed as -- I wasn't there.


BLITZER: But 2011 had ended.

KING: But here's the important thing.


BLITZER: You could have done it in 2012, 2013, 2014. You had three years to question officials from the CIA.

KING: And they were. The CIA's inspector general did 150 interviews.

BLITZER: But the committee didn't talk to them.

KING: But what I'm saying is, the questions were asked. The committee didn't ask them, but the inspector general asked them. And we had access to all of those transcripts of those interviews, plus of, of course, the CIA officials coming to Capitol Hill to testify. So the idea that no interviews were done simply isn't true.

The I.G. and the secretary-general of the CIA did lengthy interviews, and those transcripts informed the report.

BLITZER: I understand what you're saying.

I do think though the report would have had a lot more credibility if you, the Senate Intelligence Committee, would have spoken to these people, give them a chance to elaborate on what their e-mails may have said, their documents may have said. Just as a reporter or a historian, you review documents, you really want to talk to the individuals to get a personal sense of the story. KING: I agree. And that would have been much preferable. But

the alternative was to just not do it. And I think, on balance, the review of the documents is very thorough and I think very compelling.

BLITZER: Senator King, thanks very much for joining us.

KING: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Today, we heard John Brennan, the CIA director, say there's no way to know if valuable information that was gained from the terror suspects was due to the harsh interrogation tactics.

Let's listen precisely to what he said on this very, very sensitive issue last year during his confirmation hearings to become the CIA director.


BRENNAN: I'm a strong proponent of doing everything possible short of killing terrorists, bringing them to justice, and getting that intelligence from them.

I clearly had the impression, as you say, when I was quoted in 2007 that there was valuable intelligence that came out from those interrogation sessions. That's why I did say that they saved lives.

I must tell you, Senator, that reading this report from the committee raises serious questions about the information that I was given at the time and the impression I had at that time. Now I have to determine what -- based on that information as well as what CIA says what the truth is. And at this point, Senator, I do not know what the truth is.


BLITZER: That's what he said during his confirmation hearings almost two years ago before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Let's talk about all of this and more with our CNN national security analyst Bob Baer, our terror analyst Paul Cruickshank and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

He's still vague on this pretty sensitive issue, whether or not the information obtained during these enhanced interrogation techniques really helped save lives, helped find bin Laden. He says it's unknowable.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Unknowable is the word of the day.

When you look at John Brennan, you have to understand what he's trying to do is serve a lot of masters here. He's serving the president of the United States, who is ambivalent about this. He's serving the CIA, whom he has to defend. And he also knows that in the future, if he stays as CIA director, and I believe he will, that he has to repair a relationship with the Democrats on that Intelligence Committee.

So what he was saying is, you can't draw a direct line, and he's probably right about that by the way, Wolf, between A and B, because in the case of Osama bin Laden, as we know, interrogators were lied to, but it was the lie that made them think twice about that important courier.

So is that a result of torture or is that not a result of torture? So Brennan, again, walking this fine line and nobody asked him actually whether he thought torture was moral. We have been talking about whether it works, but we haven't actually had the conversation about whether it's something we ought to be doing.

BLITZER: Bob Baer, you were a CIA officer. Why is it so hard to make this conclusion that it either helped, it didn't help, that it's simply unknowable? That's the word that the CIA director used today.

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, I'm reading between the lines. The way I heard Brennan's talk today was that he's completely backing down, that the information we got out of torture was marginal, at best. In context, it proves something or didn't prove something.

But in no way did he say that it saved lives or turned a case or found bin Laden. You know, he's speaking as a bureaucrat. He's trying to defend the CIA. He couldn't describe it as torture. But he's really backed down from his statements, even since Tuesday and the week before. He's completely undercut the Republican argument that it did save lives.

I read a lot more into his speech than most people did. He said basically it's ineffective and we should never do it again.

BLITZER: Yes, in the statement they put out on Tuesday, the CIA, the Office of Public Affairs, they said this information that was obtained as a result of these enhanced interrogation techniques did prove very useful and did wind up saving American lives.

"Information that CIA obtained from detainees played a role, in combination with other streams of intelligence, in finding Osama bin Laden."

That was on Tuesday. But you're right, today, we heard different message coming from the CIA director.

Paul Cruickshank, you're monitoring these jihadi Web sites right now. There's enormous concern at the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, that the release of this report will inspire individuals, so-called lone wolves to go out there and kill Americans. What evidence have you seen so far that that potentially could be happening? Because you're monitoring those Web sites.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Wolf, there's been a muted reaction in the Middle East and also a pretty muted reaction on these jihadi Web sites, also jihadi social media. There have been some calls by some English-speaking jihadis for some retaliatory attacks, and notably a Canadian ISIS fighters who called for some of the psychologists allegedly involved with the program to be beheaded.

But by and large, this has been met with indifference. This is old news for the jihadis. They already have a very dark view of the United States. They believe the United States is engaged in a war against Islam. So there hasn't been a big reaction, not the big reaction and protests we saw in some past controversies, for example, the cartoons, for example, that film came out just which was anti- Islamic just before the Benghazi attacks.

BLITZER: All right, guys, we will continue our analysis of what's going on.

Paul Cruickshank, thanks very much. Gloria, thanks to you. And, Bob Baer, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, the countdown to a possible government shutdown. Time is running out to pass a spending bill. Will Congress get its act together before the midnight deadline?

Plus, a new and dramatic moment in the protests against police killings in New York and in Ferguson, Missouri.

And it's the worst storm to hit Northern California in years. We're tracking the rain, the wind, and the damage.


BLITZER: Breaking news here. Last-minute drama in Washington, with just hours to go before the federal government technically runs out of money, we're told the Obama administration has made contingency plans -- contingency plans -- for a possible government shutdown.

Members of Congress, they're struggling to try to hammer out some differences and reach a vote on a new spending bill.

Let's go to our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, on Capitol Hill right now. It's a tense few hours that are remaining right now, Dana. What's the latest?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no other way to put it. Congress has turned into crazy town right now. If it wasn't so serious, it would almost be funny, because here is what is happening as we speak, Wolf.

The White House chief of staff of the Democratic president just went in and is right now meeting with House Democrats, because he's trying to convince them, not Republicans, Democrats, to vote for a bipartisan bill to keep the government running.


BASH (voice-over): What was supposed to be a rare moment of bipartisan compromise devolved into congressional chaos.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Here we are in the House being blackmailed, being blackmailed to vote for an appropriations bill.

BASH: A bizarre scene. Liberal Democrats calling on conservative Republicans to join them in opposing a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep the government running because it eases Wall Street reforms.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm here to ask my Republican colleagues who don't want to see another Wall Street bailout to join in our efforts to strip this Wall Street giveaway from the bill. This is not about partisanship. This is about fairness.

BASH (on camera): How do you respond to lawmakers like Elizabeth Warren, who say that in this bill you have a giveaway to Wall Street that will ultimately hurt consumers?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't believe that to be the case at all. And Democrats have supported this provision in the past. It was agreed to in this bill on a bipartisan, bicameral agreement.

BASH (voice-over): It is true that the 1,603 page spending bill was the product of intense negotiating and horse trading between Republicans and Democrats, like appropriations chair Barbara Mikulski.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D-MD), APPROPRIATIONS CHAIRWOMAN: We debated, we fought. You know, sometimes you give a little, you take a little.

BASH: But it was too much giving and taking for wings of both parties. Conservatives unhappy it did not stop the president's executive action on immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like there's nothing but a walking retreat.

BASH: Democrats, upset about rolling back regulations on banks, potentially putting taxpayer dollars at risk.

PELOSI: It's back to the same old Republican formula. Privatize the gain, nationalize the risk. You succeed, it's in your pocket. You fail, the taxpayer pays the bill.

BASH: They're also unhappy with changes to campaign finance laws tucked into the bill, allowing wealthy donors to give $1.5 million to parties every two years.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: I can't vote for any budget that rewards big banks and big donors. Once you punch (ph) that in this budget.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: So here we are, a little more than five hours away from

when Congress -- when the government runs out of money. Congress has to extend that. And we have no idea how this evening is going to go, whether or not the big bill that was negotiated in a bipartisan way is going to be able to pass.

Again, this is something that House Republican leaders and the White House are joining in together, with tension from wings of both of their parties, or whether maybe close to when the clock strikes midnight, both houses of Congress are going to have to pass a bill to keep the government running.

Because everybody is in agreement on one ting, that they won't let the government shut down.

And one last thing, I just want to give you an inside look that we often don't get to see. We'll show you how -- how much bravado especially the liberal Democrats have right now. Maxine Waters, a Democrat who's very much against this because of the Wall Street reforms, she tweeted a picture of a meeting that some of the liberal insurgents, if you will, had to talk about how to keep Democratic votes away from this bill, the same Democratic votes that the White House is trying to convince not to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Really an extraordinary moment right now. We're watching very closely these next 5 1/2 hours. Dana, thanks very much.

Dana Bash reporting from Capitol Hill.

When you think about what's going on up there right now, as she points out, the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, he is trying to urge, he's effectively begging Democrats, "Please, vote for this legislation. Join those Republicans, vote for it." There will be plenty of Republicans who themselves won't vote for it, as Dana points out, because they're Tea Party supporters; they don't support big government, all this spending, more than a trillion dollars. But it is neck and neck right now, and the ramifications could be enormous.

Let's bring in Republican Congressman Mike Rogers. He's the outgoing chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Chairman, I want to talk to you about our top story, what's going on with the CIA, the so-called torture report. But give me your reaction to what's going on with the spending bill right now? Five and a half hours to go, is it really possible, is it really possible the government could shut down?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), OUTGOING CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I don't think they're going to do it. I know there's a lot of concern, certainly. But in Congress, at the last part of the session that there's a little bit of drama is like saying that the sun is coming up tomorrow morning.

They'll get this worked out. There's a three-month extension that is being laid on the table. There's the longer negotiated package that's on the table.

And I think Democrats saw an opportunity to try to scuffle the bill up a little bit and try to get some things that they wanted. And the negotiation is fairly intense, including by the way, the White House chief of staff, working Democrats in order to support the negotiated package.

So it's going to be interesting to see what happens. But either way, we're going to get, I think, either a very short-term extension to court more room for negotiation or a 30-, 90-day type extension to go into next year.

BLITZER: Well, very quickly, the speaker, John Boehner, he's asking everyone to vote for it. The Republicans have a lopsided majority in the House of Representatives. Why can't it just pass with a Republican -- with a Republican majority?

ROGERS: Well, you have enough of a number. We don't have that bigger majority until next year in the chamber. So about 25, 28 people can derail a bill. And normally in these packages that are negotiated to make up the difference for some folks on the other side of the aisle who do want to see the cuts. And that's the interesting thing.

This bill was actually a reduction, the most reduction in spending on these big omnibus bills that I've seen in four or five years. And the number is below what the Ryan budget proposed, I think by some $20 billion or something.

So it's a pretty good get. And, you know, we're going to work this out. It's going to happen. It's just now is it going to be 90 days? Is it going to be the longer version?

BLITZER: Let's get to our top story now, the CIA report. We heard from the CIA director John Brennan today. Last Sunday, you were on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." You told Candy Crowley your fear if this report would be released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, you said it will cause violence and deaths, deaths to Americans.

Have you seen any intelligence showing that that is in the works right now, that there are actionable plots, for example, that the U.S. intelligence community, law enforcement community have learned about?

ROGERS: And just to be clear, the foreign leaders, foreign liaison intelligence partners and our own intelligence community assessed that there would be some incendiary, violent acts and the likelihood of deaths in this report. So I stand by that, but I want to make sure that we understand where that information came from.

Secondly, we -- what we've seen is we've had to spend a good chunk of money trying to make sure that our embassies are secure, and they're going into a higher threat mode, which again, will cost us more money.

We're also seeing our intelligence services are having to change some patterns for individual operations around the world to adjust for what they believe could be an opportunity for mischief, if you will. And so we're seeing all that happen today.

It will take some time, but our -- you can count that the ISIL folks are taking -- will lift out sections very convenient to their message and their propaganda campaign, and they will use it. And they will use it for an excuse for violence. They will use it as an excuse to encourage others to violence. And they will use it to try to turn the world tide against American interests around the world. We know that. We're already seeing some of that, but it's going to take some time for them to get through it. Some of it will have to be translated and packaged in a way that they think is valuable.

BLITZER: So you're stay -- you're sticking by your fear that this release of a report will cause violence and deaths?

ROGERS: Again, that's the information that was given to us by our foreign leaders, by foreign intelligence services and our intelligence community. I assessed, after looking at all that, that I agree with them that there will be some incentive for violence, and it could lead to deaths, somewhere around the world. And it could be a diplomat. It could be an attack on our embassy. It could be an attack on other American civilians around the world based on what they believe happened in this particular report.

BLITZER: The other side, though, is that the American public, if you listen to Senator Feinstein and the other Democrats of the intelligence community, they say the American public has a right to know what U.S. officials were doing on their behalf. Transparency is important. Learning from mistakes is important.

And if it wouldn't have been released this week when the Republicans are in the majority next month in the Senate, it would have never been released. To which you respond?

ROGERS: Well, it's a very partisan report, unfortunately. And think of this. This is an investigation that the world will interpret as definitive. Not one person, not one single person who was involved in the program was interviewed.

You cannot conduct an investigation without talking to individuals who even produced the piece of paper that you're going to use as a guide to draw your conclusion. So that part is incorrect. We've talked to individuals before saying, hey, we directly benefit from information from this report. This report says there was no information that was of benefit.

I think this report is controversial, even amongst Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, on the methodology, on what conclusions they came to. And again, it was a very partisan report as the chairman had just released a bipartisan report on the controversial issue. You can do it, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of effort, and you have to have supporting evidence, including eyewitness testimony, and none of that happened in this report.

So I'm still worried that you have all of that, they released things that have already been litigated. The Justice Department has cleared any criminal wrongdoing already. They said the release of this report is nothing new for them. They're not going to pursue any legal action.

But now we've created all of this stir. The United Nations says we're -- they're going to prosecute these folks. The European Union is calling for prosecution of these folks, who we've asked to do something for the United States of America, and now we're going to have to get lawyers. They're going to have to worry about their safety and security moving forward. I think that's wrong.

BLITZER: Congressman Rogers, thanks very much. The outgoing chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. You were referring to that bipartisan report that your committee released a week or two ago on the Benghazi incident, a tragic incident indeed. Thanks very much for all your service over the years. I know you're retiring from the U.S. Congress. We'll stay in touch with you. Appreciate it very much.

ROGERS: Thanks, Wolf. It's always been great to be on.

BLITZER: Thank you. We'll get you back, I'm sure.

Just ahead, a new hands-up protest. The message from Ferguson, Missouri, reaching the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Our panel is standing by.

We'll also get an update on that fierce and dangerous storm in Northern California with wind gusts now up to 120 miles per hour, and widespread power outages.


BLITZER: A walkout at the U.S. Capitol today. Congressional staffers embracing the "hands up" gesture of protests that began in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of Michael Brown. Demonstrators across the nation there showing their determination to promote the movement against police brutality.

Let's bring in our community activist John Gaskin, as is our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is with us as well.

John, this large group of congressional staffers, they stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol today. They are serving they say as the voice of the voiceless. There were a lot of young faces, out there among those showing their support for Eric Garner, for the Michael Brown cause.

This was a powerful walkout. When you see these pictures, John, you as a young African-American activist out there, what do you think?

JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: I think the demonstrations took a historic turn today. To see staffers, both Hispanic, African- American and other minority groups there that work on the Hill to take time out of their busy schedules to be joined by civil rights icons like John Lewis, to stand in unity and in solidarity to send the unified message yet again that there has been a lapse in justice. I believe that sends a strong message, and it shows, you know,

from the very beginning, many people saw that there was a divide between protesters and what we would call spectators. But now, this movement has changed. You see doctors, professors at John Hopkins that are doing die-ins and teach-ins. And so, I think it's very beautiful to see this taking place and I think it's very historic today what we saw.

BLITZER: Yes, a lot of people are thinking that this is the beginning of a new era, a new chapter in the civil rights movement. That's what I heard from the president of the NAACP who was here with me earlier today, Cornell Brooks.

Jeffrey, Eric Garner's daughter attended a rally on Staten Island. She laid in the very spot where her father died. The video, it's a powerful piece of video. What does it say to you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly heartbreaking to see her there. Obviously, we can't even imagine the magnitude of her loss. I would just like to add a note perhaps of caution.

I don't think it is clear that this movement is going to take off. I think it is not -- these movements are very tough to sustain. You know, the Montgomery bus boycott was a decade before the Civil Rights Act.

These movements take a long time. They are difficult. We're heading into the winter when it is going to be harder to be outside and this stuff matters.

So, you know, yes, these are powerful symbols, but whether the number of people can be maintained when they are already going down, it's a tough thing to do.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

All right. We're going to continue this conversation tomorrow. Thanks guys very much.

Tonight, CNN Films is exploring the story behind Sue the Dinosaur. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody called me and said, the FBI has got crime scene tape around the institute and they are taking Sue. I hung up the phone and I went as fast as I could down to the institute. (INAUDIBLE) agency had 30-some people, whatever, it's just insane. I didn't even think about it. I grabbed the tape, I go under it, I just went to the specimen, that was my concern. I could just see these idiots try to pack up my dinosaur and take it away and ruin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How dare they? How dare these people do this? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unconscionable. I can't imagine somebody

being able to do this here in the United States of America, a free country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In order to ensure this dinosaur could be carefully packed up, we helped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pretty clear they didn't know what they were doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people didn't know anything. Most of these guys hardly go out in the field at all. What do they know about preparing a fossil or packing it, or anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Larsons were trying to do a little bit of negotiating and put Sue under lock and key at our place to prevent damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said to Kevin Shaeffer (ph), you just tell me and that fossil won't go anywhere. It's not like it's going to disappear in a briefcase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That request was denied.


BLITZER: Wow. For more on Sue's journey, watch the CNN film "Dinosaur 13" tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Up next, drenching rains, howling winds, no power, the massive storm hammering the West Coast. We're going there.


BLITZER: Breaking news we're following. Take a look at this. We're showing you some live pictures out of San Francisco. Parts of California right now -- they are being battered by the most powerful storm to hit the state in several years.

Let's bring in our meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's at the CNN severe weather center.

What's happening in California, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, we are seeing a lot of rain in California is what we are seeing. Not a familiar sight at all. But look at this, still coming down around San Francisco and has been coming down all day long and it will likely continue in the Bay Area through the overnight and then slowly improving by tomorrow.

This is slowly going to start to move down to the South. But we have had lots of it. We've had flooding rains along the coast and we've had blizzard conditions in the sierras. Look at the rainfall totals, about 6 inches of rain in the Sonoma area, Santa Rosa, more than four inches, and in around San Francisco, about 2 1/2 inches of rain today and those rain totals will likely go up. Not only have we have the rain, Wolf, we have had the wind. Look

at the wind gusts, 56 mile-per-hour winds in Half Moon Bay. San Francisco had a 50 mile-per-hour gust, Monterey, 48. And then when you go up to the higher elevations, we have wind gusts, White Mountain, that's at 14,000 feet, 139 miles per hour. Mt. Lincoln had one at 135.

But these winds are continuing. Looking at them just funneling into the state and that's going to continue as we head into the overnight hours, the high-wind warning still in effect. We could still see gusts over 50 miles per hour and gusts over 80 in some of those higher elevations. So, let's time this out because it is going to push out ever so slowly. It's going to move out on Friday morning and we're going to see the rain kind of push into the Los Angeles area and move out of the San Francisco area and then they are going to get a little bit of a break on Saturday as Sunday.

But get this, another storm on the way on Monday. And, Wolf, most of the state needs about 12 inches of rain to start to put a dent in this drought or end it and so this is helping even though it is causing an awful lot of problems there.

BLITZER: It certainly is over the next few days.

Jennifer Gray, thanks very, very much. We'll stay on top of the story in California.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you back here tomorrow.

In the meantime, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.