WATCH: Cheney Blames Obama for the Rise of ISIS; Warns of Large Scale Attack

'I think we could see another 9/11-style attack with much deadlier weapons. I worry if they use chemicals or biological agents or nuclear weapons.'

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CNN Transcript:

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. 

Topping our national lead, the U.S. may suffer a terrorist attack possibly worse than 9/11. That is the dire warning coming from none other than former Vice President Dick Cheney. 

In an interview with CNN's Jamie Gangel, the former secretary of defense yet again taking aim at President Obama, claiming he's directly responsible for the rise of ISIS. Cheney and his daughter Liz, a former deputy secretary of state during the Bush administration, are out with a new book titled "Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America."

Here's a portion of what he had to say. 


JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You in the book blame the spread of ISIS on President Obama. He says it's your fault, that Bush-Cheney left the region unstable. 

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think he's wrong. Look at the record. We had a situation in which, by the time we got through the surge in '07 and '08, President Bush made a very courageous decision, a very correct decision, and Iraq was in good shape when we left office. 

And Barack Obama said as much. What happened basically was they failed to follow through. They withdrew as quickly as possible and left no stay-behind force there. They created a vacuum and the vacuum was filled by ISIS. 

GANGEL: How dangerous do you really think ISIS is now to homeland security, American soil? 

CHENEY: I think extraordinarily dangerous, partly because of their ability to recruit from the United States people to become members of ISIS to go to Syria, Iraq and so forth. I think the danger of having those people return, having trained, for example, over there or their ability to motivate people in the United States and elsewhere in other parts of the world to become ardent followers, if you will, of that ideology and sacrifice themselves in the name of the killing infidels, I think that possibility is increasing. 


And I think ISIS is very dangerous indeed, especially if you think about the prospects of nuclear weapons being developed in the Middle East. 

GANGEL: Do you think we could see another major 9/11-style attack on American soil? 

CHENEY: I think we could see another 9/11-style attack with much deadlier weapons. I worry if they use chemicals or biological agents or nuclear weapons

Remember, the weapon they used on 9/11, airline tickets and box cutters. That was a difficult, terrible day for us, 3,000 casualties. It will be a lot worse if they find deadlier weapons. 


TAPPER: Our thanks to Jamie Gangel. And you can see Jamie's full interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney on "A.C. 360" tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN. 

Let's talk about the battle against ISIS with Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

Your response to these dire warnings from the Cheneys?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, first of all, you have got to give the vice president credit for being able to say these things with a straight face, particularly to lay responsibility for the growth of ISIS and, before ISIS, really al Qaeda in Iraq, at President Obama's feet, when there's probably no one who was more of an architect of the disaster in the Middle East than Dick Cheney. 

But, nonetheless, in terms of the threats that he's talking about facing the country, ISIS has really more focused on the quantity of attacks, rather than the quality of attacks. They have not as yet tried to mount a major 9/11-style assault. That doesn't mean that can't change.

And, obviously, we're very vigilant to any change in the nature of their plotting and planning. But I still worry more about al Qaeda, the remnants, the franchises like AQAP, that have shown more sophistication than ISIS in trying to pull off those big kind of attacks. 

TAPPER: The vice president expressed concern about ISIS getting its hand on chemical weapons, nuclear weapons. Now, we have reports that ISIS used a mustard gas, a known chemical weapon, on Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq. 

Is there any intelligence that you know of suggesting that ISIS is trying to acquire nuclear or biological weapons or chemical weapons to use in the United States? 

SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think that the public reports of ISIS obtaining chemicals or using chemicals are very plausible. 

Certainly, this is a group that's shown its brutality in countless ways. And if they can get ahold of chemical weapons either from Saddam Hussein's old stock or part of Bashar al-Assad's stockpile before he destroyed much of it, then they will certainly use them. 

Would they use them in the United States? If they had the opportunity, I'm sure they would. But that's a pretty difficult assignment to not only get ahold of those, but transport them in a way that would clandestinely get into the United States. So, it's certainly something that we're going to make sure doesn't happen, do everything possible. 

But if they had the opportunity, they certainly have the will. 

TAPPER: Is ISIS capable of carrying out a large-scale mass-casualty attack in the U.S.? You said they're focused on quantity, not quality. Could they do quality? Could they do a big, large-scale attack if they wanted to? 

SCHIFF: Well, at present, I would say probably not. 

The part of our infrastructure I worry about the most is still our aircraft. I don't think our aircraft are anywhere near as secure as they should be. So if you define one of those mass attacks, 9/11- style attacks, as in bringing down aircraft, then we're still, I think, vulnerable to al Qaeda and potentially to ISIS. 

In terms of a massive coordinated attack involving multiple aircraft, multiple targets, I don't think ISIS has that capability yet, mostly because they're so focused on trying to grab territory, hold territory. They're in the midst of a multifront war right now. 

But if they're allowed to hold that land unmolested, if they're allowed to feel secure in their presence in these countries, then they will have the time and opportunity to plot a more large-scale attack. 

TAPPER: According to reports, ISIS has destroyed parts of a historic temple in Palmyra. In addition, we hear from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that ISIS forces are on the move in and around Damascus and getting closer to the city center. 

How concerned are you that ISIS could eventually take control of the Syrian capital? 

SCHIFF: I don't think they will take control of the Syrian capital unless there's a collapse of the Assad regime. 

And that's a concern that many of us have. And that is, we all want to see Assad go. But it's important that there be a transition away from Assad, that it not be an utter collapse of the government, because, in that kind of environment and that kind of chaos, anything is possible. It's possible you could see elements of ISIS in Damascus. You could see obviously groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, the al Qaeda franchise, as well. 


So, we don't want to see those scenarios. Obviously, there are people we are supporting. And we hope to preserve some remnant of the civil service and the infrastructure of the Syrian government absent Bashar al-Assad. That really is the best-case scenario, a diplomatic, a negotiated resolution, not a pure collapse and the chaos and mayhem that may result. 

TAPPER: Yes, from your mouth.

Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. I hope you're enjoying your district work period.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Jake.