The following is a transcript of an interview with House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Turner, Republican of Ohio, that aired on Nov. 19, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to the Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Turner. Good to have you back with us, sir.
REP. MIKE TURNER: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve said that that absolutely brutal and horrific attack on October 7, by Hamas was a huge intelligence failure. Things were missed. And then there were operational failures, as we know, once that attack was underway. Given those massive blind spots, can the U.S. actually be confident in Israeli intelligence now when it says that what it’s doing is with full accuracy?
REP. TURNER: Well, I think there certainly is a gap that was unexpected with respect to Israel’s intelligence gathering. And when we saw the failures of October 7, where they failed to see the- the emerging horrendous Hamas attack and the taking of hostages that resulted in what you’re reporting, we wondered whether or not it was a lack of focus. But now that the United States is actually working with Israel, and trying to assist in locating Hamas and understanding Hamas’ structure, we’re actually understanding that- that Israel has a gap in also capabilities. Now of the operational aspects as you related, because we saw a lack of response after the Hamas attack began to unfold, there also were concerns as to whether Israel was going to get to go into Gaza and to be able to locate and to dismantle Hamas. But I think everyone’s seeing it, they’re progressing at a much faster rate than- than anyone had expected. But still, as we see now, the reports that are coming out of Gaza, as Israel reports, what they’re accomplishing, there certainly is concern and doubt.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe it is militarily- potentially successful goal to eliminate Hamas?
REP. TURNER: Well, certainly with any terrorist group and organization, it’s not just the individuals that are operating it that you have to look at. It’s also its function, its structure, its finances, its weapons systems, its command and control. Those are things that certainly Israel has the ability and they are prosecuting the war to that. So they can significantly diminish Hamas’ ability to conduct attacks on Israel, and also give the Palestinians an opportunity to- to bridge to some other form of government in Gaza. You know, the Palestinians in Gaza are just as much a prisoner, and certainly victims of Hamas, as- as we’re seeing with the effects on Israel.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about threats here at home. But very quickly, have you seen intelligence to back up some of the reporting that says some of these Hamas attackers, who were just so brutal that they were actually on an amphetamine called Captagon? I know some of your Republican colleagues are trying to take action. Was that a factor here?
REP. TURNER: We don’t have I have not seen intelligence about that, like you. I’ve seen the news reporting. And it’s certainly very troubling, because it certainly shows the viciousness of the attack.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Here at home, the FBI director, I know, recently testified that foreign terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, have issued specific calls to attack the US. How do you understand the threat to the homeland now?
REP. TURNER: You know, this is very, very unusual for the FBI director to so publicly make these statements and certainly in his conversations with the Intelligence Committee, they’ve been on an unclassified basis. So we have the ability to talk about it. It certainly shows the extent to which these threats are troubling the director, and what he’s indicated specifically, is that more than a decade, the increase in terrorist threats to the United States, inside the United States is at its highest ever. And he cites, you know, the- the chaotic withdrawal of Afghanistan and our loss of intelligence gathering there. He cites the southern border and individuals who are allied with international terrorist organizations that have crossed the border. Those are two Biden administration policies. So for the FBI director to cite those were- as- where the threats are emanating certainly shows you how important these statements are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. So what would it take to get you on board with supporting some sort of overhaul of border policy? I know that in the Senate, they’re talking about trying to bundle together some of these initiatives?
REP. TURNER: Well, I think they- I think they should be bundled together. And I’ve been at the White House several times talking about, you know, what we call sort of the quad national security package where they’re looking at Ukraine, Taiwan, East Asia, but border. Border has to be a part of it and not just funding for the border, it needs to be policy changes. Our border needs to be secure. The FBI director has specifically cited that individuals come across that border allied with international terrorist organizations are a threat internal to the United States.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Congress went home for the next few weeks. And you got a lot of work to do before the end of the year. One of those things, potentially, is reauthorizing section 702, which allows agencies to gather data like phone calls and text messages from foreign nationals abroad. Some of your Republican colleagues like Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz have said they- they don’t like section 702. Is the Republican controlled House going to reauthorize this and when?
REP. TURNER: Absolutely. The problem is, there’s a bunch of misinformation out there. What you just said is absolutely correct. It’s 702 allows the collection of foreigners outside the United States who pose a national security threat to the United States. We have to continue to collect that data and information, it’s from which we are able to keep our country secure. And certainly, in that we also capture those inside the United States, like those terrorists who have come across the southern border, the FBI talks about as being a threat here, their communications outside the United States with those terrorist groups and organizations so we can track them down and prevent those attacks. This is absolutely essential. This is our post-9/11 structure. As our national security threat increases, we have to make certain that we maintain the tools that have kept us safe.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And just to clarify here, I know that Border Patrol has said there are people who’ve come across the border whose names match the terror watch list, but that doesn’t necessarily represent a terrorist or suspected terrorist, just for anyone who’s concerned there. On the–
REP. TURNER: — But the FBI director has specifically said that there are individuals that are allied with international terrorist organizations who have come across the border that pose a threat. That’s- that’s the part of what his last two weeks of public statements have been.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about classified documents, because CBS has been reporting that special counsel Robert Hur is near the end of his investigation into President Biden and his alleged mishandling of classified info. If there are indeed no charges brought, which is what we are reporting, what do you think the signal will be to the national security world?
REP. TURNER: Well, it- this will be certainly devastating- continuing to be devastating for the Department of Justice into the Biden administration with their two-tier system of justice. You know, Biden has been found to be a serial classified document hoarder. Over a 10 year period, he’s been taking classified documents, some of the most sensitive that threaten our national security home, without any protection, and certainly, you know, able to- for others to be able to access them. There needs to be consequences. The fact that Hillary Clinton who had, you know, over 100 classified documents at home when she was Secretary of State and Vice President Biden both under Obama at the same time, were taking classified documents home, and certainly had them be vulnerable, with no consequences shows the Department of Justice is not pursuing Democrats.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, as you know, there is a difference with the case against President Trump who refused to hand over documents fully and violated the Espionage Act, that’s a charge against him, because he didn’t work with the government to hand those over–
REP. TURNER: — Biden had these documents for over 10 years. You can’t hoard documents in your home for a ten- a decade long period, concealing them taking them home as a senator, Vice President, and then suddenly say, hey, two weeks while I was president, I I cooperated and therefore, you know, it doesn’t count that I spent 10 years as a serial classified document hoarder.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Well, we’re going to have to leave it there for today. Thanks as always for joining us.
REP. TURNER: Thank you, Margaret.