Focus on Benghazi turns back to consulate security failures
While some in Congress continue to call for an accounting of why the White House pushed out misleading information about the nature of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, others say the real question is the original one: why U.S. interests were left so vulnerable in such a chaotic and violent part of the world.
Emerging from a classified briefing on Friday, Senate Intelligence Committee member Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said evidence presented by former CIA director David Petraeus and other intelligence chiefs had highlighted this issue.
“Clearly the security measures were not adequate despite an overwhelming and growing amount of information that showed that the area of Benghazi was dangerous,” Rubio said.
While rumors swirled about a political motive behind the timing of Petraeus’s sudden resignation last week with admission of an extramarital affair, Republican leaders in Congress have made it clear this is not a top concern for them.
“I see nothing to indicate that (the affair and related FBI investigation) had any impact on his decisions relative to Benghazi,”Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “(Petraeus) has always been very straightforward. He was very straightforward on Friday.”
Later on the same show, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) called it “irresponsible” that State Department officials were on site in Benghazi without adequate security personnel and reinforcements in place.
“We didn’t have resources in range,” Lieberman said. ”…If we had an armed drone in that dangerous part of the world, it probably could have knocked out the people who were firing those mortars.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, agreed, adding that she had reviewed hundreds of pieces of information illustrating the dangers surrounding the consulate.
Congressional hearings and whistleblowers have turned up dozens of reports of violence in the months leading up to the Benghazi attacks and email chains from officials on site in Benghazi and Tripoli making requests for additional security personnel that were never granted.
“There is no question that Benghazi is one of the most difficult places,” Feinstein said. “It should have had much better security.”
While security failures may be the premier focus of future hearings planned by the intelligence committees, other members of Congress said they are committed to finding out why White House-approved talking points following the attacks pointed to a spontaneous protest, rather than al Qaeda-related terrorist activity.
“The narrative was wrong and why that was important was there was some policy decisions made based on the narrative,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) told Meet the Press’s David Gregory.
Sen Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on the show that it was all too convenient that narratives that make President Barack Obama look good, such as the account of the Osama bin Laden assassination, leak immediately to the press, while narratives that don’t are papered over.
“Would this White House mislead the American people about national security events? I think they might,” he said. “…If they would leak classified information to help make (Obama) look good, would they withhold information to keep him from looking bad?”
Graham said U.N. ambassadors Susan Rice had to answer for her statements following the attacks that the administration had been able to cripple al Qaeda, when she likely knew that al Qaeda was behind the most recent violence.
“The story she told reinforced a political narrative favorable to the president,” he said.