U.S. intelligence agencies aren’t sure what Russian President Vladimir Putin might do next after he was able to annex Crimea almost without warning, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said.
“Part of the problem has been that it is really difficult with Putin -- he has continued to shrink,” Rogers, a Michigan Republican, said in an interview yesterday for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “His inner circle has gotten very, very small.”
Added Rogers, “you can’t get in his head.”
If history is a judge, Rogers said of the Russian president, “there’s more that he’s going to do.”
Rogers said Putin may try to create a land bridge from Transnistria in Moldova to Crimea, and may not stop there.
“I believe he’ll probably try to create a land bridge from Transnistria'' to Crimea, Rogers said. “And so we have some concerns that he is trying to create land bridges from Russia to Armenia. In Georgia, we have some concerns that he’d try to create a land bridge in Ukraine.”
Rogers said lawmakers on his panel are reviewing Defense Department and CIA reports issued before the Crimea takeover -- “one of them got it completely wrong; one at least laid out the scenario” -- to find out what was missed.
“It could be a valuable lesson,” he said, adding that it could be “a teaching moment for all of us.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee voted to release a report on the CIA that found the agency exaggerated the effectiveness of torture techniques used to try to extract information after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against New York City and the Pentagon and during the Iraq War.
The panel voted 11-3 yesterday to ask President Barack Obama to declassify the executive summary and 20 findings and conclusions from the 6,200-page report. It would be the government’s most comprehensive public assessment of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces and other interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists at secret prisons during President George W. Bush’s administration.
“The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and the committee’s chairman, said in a statement after a closed-door session authorizing the request. “It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen.”
Rogers said the “methodology of the report is flawed,” adding it’s “impossible to come to a conclusion without interviewing one single person involved in the program.” He said he and Feinstein had “candid conversations” about releasing the summary and didn’t agree on releasing it.
The decision to do so was partly political, and “I don’t think it’s going to shed any new light,” he said.
Rogers said the House Intelligence Committee has a “full picture” of what happened in Benghazi, Libya, when a U.S. mission there was overrun and four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.
His panel, which has held several classified hearings on the issue, including with former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, will release a report in about two weeks, he said.
Republicans have said the Obama administration downplayed the terrorist nature of the attack to deflect criticism of its anti-terrorism efforts in the months before the 2012 election. They also have indicated they will use the State Department’s failure to better protect the diplomatic outpost as an issue against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she runs for president in 2016.
Rogers, a seven-term congressman who has defended government surveillance programs as key to fighting terrorism, won’t seek re-election in November and instead will host a new national radio program for Cumulus Media Inc.
Asked who he would favor on national security issues if the presidential choice in 2016 came down to Republican Senator Rand Paul, who hails from the libertarian strain of the Republican Party, and Clinton, considered among the more hawkish Democrats, Rogers laughed and deferred.
“Well, I’m not going to answer that question because I’m hoping that through the process of trying to move the needle on a broad national platform on national security, we can get people back to what is away from this isolationist tendencies, engagement in the world and peace through strength,” he said.