Alex Witt | April 27, 2013
>>> new intelligence reports about syria 's possible use of chemical weapons is putting president obama under increasing pressure to take action. earlier today nbc chief foreign correspondent richard engel told me why the president isn't making any hasty decisions.
>> when you think about a chemical weapons use or even a nuclear weapon use, you think of a mass attack. what happened when the saddam hussein government punished a city, a town in this case, and killed thousands of people. or the chemical gas attacks of world war i where thousands died in clouds of mustard gas . what seems to have happened in syria on perhaps two occasions is there were a small number of casualties and small amounts of sarin were found. now, i'm not trying to say that that wasn't a bad thing. but it's not what you would expect when you're using a weapon of mass destruction . was it an accident? were they intending to kill more people but the weapons didn't function properly? were they sending a message to the opposition or to us? it wasn't a mass casualty chemical weapons -style attack. there's something strange about what happened.
>> well, the president declared last summer that if the assad regime used chemical weapons , it would be crossing a red line and it would not be tolerated. joining me with more on syria as well as the very latest in the boston bombings investigation i'm delighted to welcome democratic congresswoman jan schakowsky . so glad you're here. as we pick up on what richard engel was talking about, it appears that there's evidence of some chemical weapon use. is that not the red line which the president said cross it and it's a red line we're going to have to do something?
>> there's a difference between intelligence which leads us to believe that they are using chemical weapons in some way, who exactly and where and when, not confirmed yet, and evidence. evidence meaning that you can connect the physiological evidence. you can look at some blood. the kind of evidence that you can actually take, for example, to the united nations and say --
>> -- we have irrefutable evidence that this is being used and it's being used by the assad regime against its own people. so we have not connected all the dots yet to make sure, and i really appreciate the fact that the president rather than just going in guns blazing is taking a very deliberate approach because this is a very complicated situation .
>> it's complicated in part because as richard was explaining, when you think about the use of chemical weapons , you think about massive attacks. you think about what saddam hussein did to an entire village and wiped that out. thousands of people can be --
>> wmd, weapons of mass destruction .
>> but in this case it would appear that it is like a dozen, maybe a couple of dozen people, as many as four different attacks according to intelligence reports. so how much does that muddy the waters in terms of reaction?
>> i think it does. it's unclear why that would be used as a tactical weapon in such small amounts. is it a signal that the syrian government was sending that, yes, we have these weapons and we'll use them? was it a mistake, as richard engel postulated could be a reason? so i think before we take definitive action in terms of the red line clicking something on as the president said, it's not an on or off switch, we need to do more. it's important to note we're not sitting around doing nothing as i think some of the critics may assu assume.
>> with 70,000 dead, there are critics who would say, look, why is it this has to be the red line over which we would cross because --
>> cross to do what?
>> that's the question.
>> the united states of america is already the single largest giver to the opposition forces in syria . yes, it's nonlethal, $250 million, but that includes body armor , a bunch of the equipment that can be used in conflict by the opposition. we're helping coordinate to make sure that all aid goes to those more moderate forces so we're not helping the al qaeda related organization in syria . this is a very complicated and difficult situation, and not clear what action taken by the united states would actually advance the situation there. we're looking at all the options. people aren't sitting around watching people die in syria .
>> okay. let's move to boston because i know you heard the chairman of the house intelligence committee on which you sit, mike rogers , saying that he thinks more arrests are forthcoming. based on the intelligence which presumably you're familiar with as well, why would he say that?
>> every relationship that these two brothers have had is being investigated. these people are being questioned. they're being watched. they're being identified in the united states and elsewhere to make sure -- this is one of the broadest investigations that we've had. we will see whether or not there are others who are more than just persons of interest, if there's -- was plotting for another attack. we know the brothers might have been heading to new york to times square , but so i do think that we're going to see a number of important developments.
>> we talk about the cia having added tsarnaev's mother to this terror watch list called t.i.d.e. of which there are some 700,000 names reportedly, and yet all of this still happens and there can be critics who would say these guys slipped through the cracks. are you frustrated or do you think that protocol was followed and that it was just a matter of something is not syncing up like the misspelling of a name, the different birth dates, two different birth dates. that would cause this kind of confusion in the system.
>> i know that the fbi did follow up on the russian identification or flagging of the older brother. there's no question about that. and the investigation that they did, though he is still in the database, did not lead to in no-fly list. so i think it is worth looking to see if there's still some additional siloing going on between the cia and the fbi . if there are lessons that we can learn to make sure that there is the kind of sharing that needs to happen. but it's not as if he was ignored by u.s. authorities.
>> how about tamerlan and dzhokhar's mother? is there any indication that she may have been part of something in an active way here related to boston ?
>> all of that is part of this broad investigation. i want to say one thing, alex. think of the fact that these two people were caught, one is dead, one is jailed, in a very short time by law enforcement from the top, from the fbi to the local law enforcement. it's really quite an achievement. i think we should make sure we can do better ahead of time so we avoid that, but it's been a remarkable effort and continues to be one.
>> well, i would agree with you, and i have said many a time over the past couple weeks that, in fact, we have to be right 100% of the time because we're trying to protect this country and terrorists only have to be right once.
>> that's correct.
>> okay. representative jan schakowsky , so good to see you.
>> thank you.