Rep. Will Hurd, Former CIA Officer In Middle East, On Protests In Iran
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
People in Iran are out in the streets, angry with a government that first denied, then admitted it accidentally shot down a passenger jet last week, killing everyone on board. Here in the U.S., many officials are cheering on these Iranian protesters, among them Will Hurd, Republican congressman from Texas and a former undercover CIA officer in the Middle East.
Congressman, welcome back.
WILL HURD: Thank you. It's always a pleasure to be on.
KELLY: I'll start with your call for the U.S. to support these anti-government protesters in Iran. How, specifically? What does that support look like?
HURD: Well, I think first and foremost, we need to separate the government, Iran, from the Iranian people and the Persian culture. Our quarrel is not with the Iranian people. I think these are folks that are stepping up and stressing that they want their freedom. So the protest is saying that the rest of the world sees you. They support y'all's interests in having a say in how the government is run. I also believe we should be supporting any kind of leaders that are growing, so...
KELLY: And just to be clear, when you talk about supporting the people on the streets or supporting emerging leaders, you're talking about saying, hey, I see you - I don't know - on Twitter or elsewhere. Are you talking about something more tangible?
HURD: Right now, it's making sure we can amplify their message, right? And they don't have access to the Internet all the time, but there's ways we can help amplify that message to the communities. The Iranian diaspora through the rest of the world is one way to do that, and showing that other democratic-loving countries are supportive of their efforts.
KELLY: Let me ask you this, because you're on the House Intelligence Committee.
HURD: I am.
KELLY: You have been briefed on the intelligence...
HURD: I have.
KELLY: ...On General Soleimani. And you have a background to evaluate that intelligence from your time at CIA. I understand that you cannot discuss classified information, but do you find the intelligence persuasive that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks, as the Trump administration has claimed?
HURD: One hundred percent. I think General Milley, in his public statements talking about this, was unambiguous, very clear.
KELLY: This is General Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
HURD: Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff - correct. I think his public statements on this is the most accurate. And I concur with General Milley 100%.
KELLY: One more question on the intelligence, and a specific one about President Trump's repeated claim that Soleimani was targeting multiple U.S. embassies. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was asked about this yesterday by Margaret Brennan on "Face The Nation." Here's what he said.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")
MARK ESPER: Well, the president didn't say there - it was a tangible - he didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is he probably - he believes there could've been...
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying there wasn't one?
ESPER: I didn't see one with regard to four embassies.
KELLY: Congressman Hurd, how do we make sense of this apparent discrepancy between what the president and the defense secretary - between the intelligence reaching them?
HURD: I - the discrepancy is I think the president said he believed and he was opining on potential attacks and was...
KELLY: He stated it multiple times and was specific about four U.S. embassies.
HURD: Sure. And again, I - you know, roll back the tape. And again, I think he was talking about - he believed that that is what some of the attacks were going to be. But that doesn't change the fact that there was intelligence that indicated potential loss of life by Americans and our allies. And it doesn't negate the fact that the head of one of the worst terrorist organizations was taken off the map.
KELLY: Sure. And I'm not trying to ask a gotcha question here. I am genuinely curious what your view is as someone on the Intel Committee with responsibility for overseeing national security and intelligence. Does it concern you that the defense secretary says he didn't see any intel indicating a threat to four embassies? The president has said repeatedly that's what Soleimani was targeting.
HURD: Again, I think what the president has said is that he believes that some of the targets were embassies. And what Secretary Esper is saying is that the specific intelligence on the attack that led to Qassem Soleimani's death did not reveal the targets.
KELLY: So you're fine with the public statements of both these officials as they stand.
HURD: I am.
KELLY: Will Hurd, thank you.
HURD: Thank you.
KELLY: That's Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. As you heard there, he is also a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.