Libyan Weapons Stockpiles Remain A Concern
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
I'm joined by Congressman Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan. He is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Welcome to the program.
SIEGEL: Melissa, thanks for having me.
BLOCK: And Congressman, this was seen as a success story by Western powers - Libya getting rid of its WMDs. But that process is evidently not complete. What can you tell us about what weapons or chemical agents remain behind?
ROGERS: So an international organization went in to incinerate the mustard gas, when all of the uncertainty in the regime - they were forced to leave and left about 25,000 pounds of not only mustard gas but chemical precursors that are also pretty valuable in the making of chemical weapons.
BLOCK: Okay. Well, the State Department's spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, was asked about the security of sites like this today. Let's take a listen to what she said.
VICTORIA NULAND: We believe that these known missile and chemical agent storage facilities remain secure. And we've not seen any activity based on our national technical means to give us a concern that they have been compromised.
BLOCK: So, Congressman Rogers, do you share that belief from the State Department that the facilities that we know of are secure?
ROGERS: Well, I do believe that the mustard gas facility, we have a high degree of confidence that it's still under regime control. And there has been no movement out of the facility or there's been no outside breach into the facility to get it. On the missile front, I am not sure where the State Department gets that information. I have a very high degree of confidence that many of those sites are not secure, and some of that material may have already left those facilities.
BLOCK: I'm curious. If the mustard gas stockpile is under, as you understand it, under regime control, would you consider that to be more secure or less secure than if it were in the hands of the rebels?
ROGERS: Well, it's a two-edged sword. I think there is very little chance that Gadhafi would use mustard gas now. But my biggest fear is once he falls, we know that al-Qaeda and other groups have expressed an interest in getting weapons and weapon systems from Libya. So that begins the recipe for what could be a disaster for U.S. national security interests, by people just selling it.
BLOCK: Congressman Rogers, who do you think should be responsible for securing these sites? What would, say, NATO's role be or the U.S. role, in your view?
ROGERS: The TNC has recognized that this might be a problem for them, I think is eager to do something about it. I think this can be an effort where the U.S. leads the group, apply our capabilities and our expertise to try helping solve this problem.
BLOCK: By TNC, you're referring to the Transitional National Council...
BLOCK: ...the rebel government.
ROGERS: That's correct, yes.
BLOCK: Would you be in favor of, say, U.S. Special Forces on the ground now to secure these sites, if they are such a threat, as you're saying?
ROGERS: Well, I don't think we need Special Forces soldiers who are trained to engage the enemy, we need special qualified individuals - some of them may be military, some not - that can actually help in the destruction and/or accounting of these weapons systems and/or the ability to make them secure.
BLOCK: As chairman of the Intelligence Committee, can you say that these operations that you're describing aren't already going on now?
ROGERS: Well, I can say with - I mean, I can tell you that, yes, we are not a part of any coordinated operation to secure these weapons facilities.
BLOCK: Any part of coordinated operation.
ROGERS: Well, really, we just - we have prohibitions from boots on the ground and all those things, of which I agree with. So there's really no - we're not really - we are not participating. Let me be very clear about that, at this point. And that's the argument I make is that we need to reconsider here about what role we should play in this particular security issue.
BLOCK: Congressman Rogers, thanks for being with us.
ROGERS: Oh, thank you so much for having me.
BLOCK: That's Congressman Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan. He's chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.