MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Well, we don't know enough about what Iran is up to in Iraq or anywhere else. That's the conclusion of a new Congressional report that is sharply critical of American intelligence on Iran.
The House Intelligence Committee also says the CIA and other agencies have not provided lawmakers with essential information about Iran's ability to make nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
Michigan Republican Mike Rogers chairs the subcommittee that wrote the report.
Welcome to the program
Representative MIKE ROGERS (Republican, Michigan): Well, thanks for having me.
BRAND: Well, what don't we know about Iran?
Rep. ROGERS: Well, there are certainly gaps in our intelligence on Iran that we were hoping to close. But when you look at the totality of the report, it comes to the conclusion that they are involved in enrichment of uranium, obviously. They are involved in chemical and biological programs. They are involved in supporting terrorism external to Iran.
It's some of the details that we're short, and that's the part that we - is still classified.
But we were saying to them is, look, we appreciate the great work that you've done. We understand the difficulty of the target, but given where Iran is as a world player - and not a good world player - we need better information as soon as you can possibly get it.
So it was more of an encouragement to the intelligence community that, listen - and there's three sections of intelligence gathering: what you know, what you don't know, and what we don't know we don't know. And we've asked them to step it up on the last two portions of that.
BRAND: What don't we know that we don't know?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Rep. ROGERS: Well, that's part of the classified portion of the report as well. We went through this report and we (unintelligible) through every source of collection you could imagine - including open source - and laid it out, and then try to compile, okay, you know, what are we fairly sure of? And we're fairly sure that they're bad actors, that they're supporting Hezbollah, that they're involved in Iraq, that they're engaged in uranium enrichment and chemical and biological weapons programs.
So what we need to do is raise the level of certainty on all of those things. And there are just gaps in there that we can't disclose, but there are gaps in there that we'd like to see filled. And to the credit to the agencies involved, they are and have been working to do just that - even during the course of writing the report, which has taken some months to compile.
BRAND: Let's talk about the nuclear weapons aspect of this. The White House, many Republicans have said that there's no doubt Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but how can you know when your own report says there isn't adequate intelligence to prove that?
Rep. ROGERS: It's pretty clear to me. I'm a former FBI guy, and I looked at this and looked at it pretty harshly. But it's pretty clear to me that there are just aspects of the program that we'd like to have more information.
And you know, some are interpreting this as a, you know, a horrible critique on the validity of the information that we know. No, that really wasn't it. It was more of - there are gaps that we just don't know. We have pretty good information about what we do know. I mean, and it was substantiated, you know, in more ways than we can possibly imagine that led us to a good conclusion that they are a strategic threat - and they are a strategic threat when it comes to nuclear, biological and chemical. And there are some things that we'd like to know more about.
And I don't think that we should confuse the fact that what we don't know taints what we do know. We don't believe that's true.
BRAND: The American intelligence community says Iran is five to 10 years away from developing a nuclear bomb. Do you believe that?
Rep. ROGERS: Yes, I do. And I believe that based on all the information - you remember, what you see in the report is not everything we were able to see and take a look at.
I would bet closer to five years than 10 years, and that's why I think sanctions are so important. I think that this report hopefully would serve to remind the rest — you know, certainly Americans - but the rest of the world as well that this is a problem that is international in scope, and we all better come together. We can slow down that five years with international sanctions. Right now the United States has those sanctions on. It's not enough. We need to have an international focus on sanctions to slow down and disrupt their pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
BRAND: Congressman Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, thank you very much.
Mr. ROGERS: Hey, thanks Madeleine. I appreciate it.
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.