Andrea Mitchell   |  August 06, 2013

How serious is the al Qaeda threat?

Ambassador Thomas Pickering joins Andrea Mitchell Reports to discuss the threat level overseas.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> for more on the overall threat level , i'm joined by our former u.n. ambassador, ambassador to moscow under secretary of state and the co-chair of the official review board after the benghazi tragedy investigation. a lot of people are saying that if not for benghazi and failure after rapid response force and all the other failures you and admiral mullen co-authored in discovering the investigation that you did, that perhaps this response would not have been quite as dramatic.

>> i think the government will have to answer that. we made 29 recommendations. they were all very serious. some of them had had to do obviously with staying up with events and responding in anticipation of events. perhaps that's been happening. some of them had to do obviously about continuing to evaluate and take risks. and that may not be happening now, or it may be that the risk is too great. i'm a little worried that we're now identifying intelligence sources and methods. the last time we did this we lost sight of osama bin laden for a long time.

>> you think we're talking too much.

>> we may be talking too much about intercepts.

>> but their point is that they want to publicize this and try to disrupt --

>> yes, and i know government credibility is low but the ability to say that we have credible intelligence sources is a little different than identifying exactly what. this will now drive them to couriers, which were what led us to osama bin laden but were very hard to find and they're very hard to find discrete information from unless you compromise the courier. so this is a different situation. our intelligence experts will have to respond to it. but i wondered a little bit about all of the open talk here.

>> you know the embassy security situation. we have a number of consulates and embassies that are not well defended. they are remaining closed. baghdad and kabul which were virtually fortresses have been reopened. but you can't put enough marines and you can't build enough walls to make these embassies safe.

>> nor can you stay home in the compound for all time and still do your job effectively. everyone of these reps a degradation of our capacity and that's important. the ability to protect and take risks is in fact what the benghazi report is all about and it is not one way or the other. hopefully in fact the judgment is good. it seems to me good. the notion of closing for a week, while it is perhaps a little bit unusual, is not so terrible. what's difficult is closing for a month or closing for a year or closing forever. we need to avoid that. while at the same time we obviously have to continue to put in context what we're seeing. there were beginnings of reports that you just heard that maybe this one is overreacted to. we'll have to wait and see. here i believe it is important to respect the judgment of the experts insofar as we've come.

>> i'm told that on your other hat, were you the ambassador in moscow , that the u.s. is now going to go ahead with high-level talks in washington. but i'm told that they are going to announce some time in the next couple of days that the president will not have his bilateral meeting one-on-one with vladimir putin in moscow as scheduled for early september. he'll go to the g-20 in st. pete petersburg because why invest in that kind of diplomacy when you have edward snowden having been given asylum, putin is pushing back not giving any cooperation with assad and the nuclear threats. is that a degradation of our relationship or acknowledgement?

>> the essential meeting is between president obama and president putin . that's probably reason why they're sending the message. president putin inherited a little bit after hot potato when he got snowden. president putin i think made the wrong judgment with his hot potato . i think he should have sent him out to us, if he couldn't send him out, send him to somebody who could sen hd him to us if he didn't want to take the program on in russia, or he can still send him out and i think it is important for him to do it. we're trying to maintain a modicum of relationship with the russians . if in fact what you say takes place, as king solomon once said about a tough decision, dividing the baby. this is never good but it's better perhaps than going all the way and cutting off all current relationship with the russians of importance because they can play an important role in iran . they continue to help us up to a point in iran . they're part of the negotiating effort in iran . over a period of time they worked with secretary kerry on setting up a conference. i understand the impediment to that conference is not on the russian side. it happens to be with the opposition which is very divided over the issue. one can understand that but at the same time that's not something i would put on the back of the russians . they are supporting president assad. they have said so. but they've begun to open a door in a political way that we need to take more time and attention to take care of. i was pleased that secretary kerry was able to open the door there. so we had the usual with the russians , a kind of mixed enterprise. we have some hopes in the future of further disarmament negotiations which i think can further add to the positive spin. that's something we ought to keep open and keep alive and that's why at the moment if it looks like the two presidential talks will not take place, i regret it because they were the launching pad for that kind of forward progress.

>> ambassador thomas pickering , thank you very much.