November 18th, 2012
12:03 PM ET
6 years ago

After hearing Petraeus’ testimony, legislators' questions on Benghazi remain

(CNN) - Republican legislators on Sunday questioned the motives behind the Obama administration’s initial description of the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, after Friday briefings on Capitol Hill from the former CIA director.

Asked whether the Obama administration’s initial description of the attacks as “spontaneous” was an attempt to avoid a discussion about terrorist groups being involved, Sen. Roy Blunt said, “Until you hear a better explanation, that's the only conclusion you could reach.”

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“You have to have a really good reason why you don't give the American people the information you had, unless you think you're somehow going to really endanger the people that are in other parts of the world,” the Missouri Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The attacks resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. David Petraeus, who recently resigned as director of the CIA, said in closed-door congressional briefings on Friday that the attack was planned and launched by terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda, according to lawmakers and those who attended. He downplayed the use of the word “spontaneous,” according to these accounts.

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has faced sharp criticism from Republicans for describing the attack as “spontaneous” in appearances on Sunday talk shows the week of the attack. The questions have included why she was the administration’s spokesperson on the matter and why references to terrorism were removed - and by whom - from the declassified talking points she used in her appearances.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has joined with fellow Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona in saying he would not support a promotion for Rice. They say they don’t buy the suggestion that the “spontaneous protest” explanation was part of the public narrative so that al Qaeda would be unaware of the U.S. intelligence community’s suspicions.

“Isn't it kind of off - if the reason is to take al Qaeda out of the equation to make sure that al Qaeda doesn't know that we're onto them - that the story they told helps the president enormously three weeks before the election?” he asked on NBC. “Because I don't buy that for one bit, that doesn't make sense to me.”

Graham and McCain have said they would block Rice’s nomination to serve as secretary of state, should she be nominated. Rice is seen to be a possible successor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has said she does not want to serve through President Barack Obama’s second term but will stay in her post until a candidate is ready.

Obama fiercely defended Rice at a news conference on Wednesday but did not say who his top choices for the position are.

"If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after someone, they should go after me," Obama said. "When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me."

Graham has said that there are “a lot of other qualified people” who could be chosen and that Rice’s comments following the Benghazi attacks cause him to distrust her. "The reason I don't trust her is that I think she knew better, and if she didn't know better, she shouldn't be the voice of America," Graham said.

Sunday on “Meet The Press,” he said that if her name is advanced, “I'm going to listen to what Susan Rice has to say, put her entire record in context - but I’m not going to give her a plus for passing on a narrative that was misleading to the American people, whether she knew it was misleading or not.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, said on NBC, “I don't know who we were protecting” by removing references to terrorism from the talking points.

“I do know that the answer given to us is we didn't want to name a group until we had some certainty,” Feinstein, a Democrat, continued. “Well, where this went awry is, anybody that brings weapons and mortars and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and breaks into an asset of the United States is a terrorist in my view.”

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, echoed Blunt’s sentiment.

“I know the narrative was wrong and the intelligence was right,” he said, also on NBC. “The narrative as it went, from at least the CIA and other intelligence agencies, was accurate, as we know today, was an act of terrorism.”

Rogers, a Republican, said it appears references to terrorism were removed from the talking points, but not by the intelligence community. “When asked, there was no one in the professional intelligence community (who) could tell us who changed what,” he said.

Rogers added, “This isn't just about parsing words and who was right. There was some policy decisions made based on the narrative that was not consistent with the intelligence that we had. That's my concern.”

Filed under: Congress • David Petraeus
soundoff (199 Responses)
  1. bill

    McCain still cant believe he lost to Obama being a hero and all of that, Graham, just a boring man. Elections are over, it has been a long year of hell for the public with all the adds and Television bombardment from the candidates. Now they want to have another show called the impeachment, well, the only one paying attention to the noise are the losers. You all give us a break and do something constructive, earn earn your pay. Talk about pay, I hope senators and congressman/woman take a 20% pay cut as part of the deficit reduction drive.

    November 18, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  2. Not a Fan

    It's really hard to say anything truthful about John McSenator on CNN. They really protect him by disallowing just about every comment I've tried to post. I live in AZ and I will vote to oust him from the Senate. He's incompetent, an instigator and, most of all, a WAR MONGER! He and a few others in the House and Senate need to go so America can move forward without their constant interference!

    November 18, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  3. Dave

    How long are the liberals gonna use Bush as the excuse for Obamas failures. And folks, Benghazi was/is Obamas failure. There needs to be a full investigation and a trial.

    November 18, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    This is the face of "The New Republican Party", doesn't look familiar to me at all.

    November 18, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  5. rvoter

    Transparency ya that's what Obama said not the blame game that he stands behind.

    November 18, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  6. RainCityLady

    You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is the right. Pander Bear hit the nail on the head with that translation. This is the bone these dogs will chew on for the next four years, even though they were silent on many, many things that happened during their guy's long, destructive 8 years when transparency was a dirty word.

    November 18, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Isn't it ironic that the Republican party has done NOTHING for years (other than living like royalty on the American people's dime), especially pertaining to "illegal immigration." They've sat on their hands for at least 30 years . . . doing nothing about the influx of illegals into this country . . . and NOW those same illegals are the reason the Republicans don't stand a chance of ever regaining the White House! They allowed themselves to become out numbered. Idiots extraordinaire!

    November 18, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. john

    As a member of the public, I knew within days that it was a terrorist attack. The republicans tried desperately make an issue over it before the election, without success. The facts are out now and step will be made to correct the problem. What do these people want, impeachment? Give it up you right wing fools, the election is over. You lost.

    November 18, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. bigfoot

    EVERYONE is lying except Republicans. Right.....

    November 18, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. ST

    "David Petraeus, who recently resigned as director of the CIA, said in closed-door congressional briefings on Friday that the attack was planned and launched by terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda."

    Well said General. If there were no silver bullet which could had prevented 9/11, 2001(according to republicans then), how this time in Benghazi the silver bullet could have been possible and effective? Both were terrorists attack with the hand of the same enemy – al Qaeda.

    November 18, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. Shardik

    “Until you hear a better explanation, that's the only conclusion you could reach.”

    Assuming you were looking for some partisan way to blame the administration. Otherwise, normal people know it was the (predictable) fog of war.

    November 18, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  12. Tommy G

    Gross negligence and incompetence before the attack by the Obama administration.

    Gross incompetence during the attack by the Obama adminstration.

    Lies and cover up after the attack by the Obama administration to save Obama during his re-election bid.

    And the LSM ignores it all to help their Dear Leader Obama.

    Nothing new here based on what we have seen the last four years. Move along.

    November 18, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Tommy G

    Oh yeah... forgot manipulation of intelligence assessments for political purposes.

    Yes, the Obama administration is looking more and more like the old Soviet Union that had political commissars to protect the communist party and their leaders. And our LSM now resembles Pravda, the state owned and run propaganda apparatus.

    November 18, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. Don't Like John McCain

    Hello? The entire world is out to get us, thanks in large part to war mongers like John McCain and George W. Bush who, incidentally, has DISAPPEARED FROM THE FACE OF AMERICAN POLITICS! Why is anybody "surprised" that this incident was terrorism? Duh . . . really? McSenator is useless and has to go!

    When will you Repubs stop whining and do the jobs you're being paid (very well) to do?! Stop with the distractions and accusations and get something constructive done!

    November 18, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  15. JD

    Another nail in the coffin for the GOP. As long as their inefficient leaders concentrate on trying to harm the creditability of a people majority elected President, Democrats stand a great opportunity of having another President from their party in 2016. Go GOP, you should enlist Sarah to help you some more, even Newt, that went over good the last election!!!!

    November 18, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  16. Who cares

    Looser Republicons are just trying to create something out of nothing. Nobody cares about Benghazi. If you need a trial, lets get those fat cat billionaires that hasn't been paying their rightful taxes.

    November 18, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  17. dc

    No free ride just because you are Pres. Obama! You still answer to ALL the people

    November 18, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  18. tss

    Mean while America continues to fall off a cliff.

    November 18, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. Act III: 2013 Tea Bag suicide march to the fiscal cliff

    “You have to have a really good reason why you don't give the American people the information you had"

    How is it coming on those VP Cheney secret meeting records with oil execs?
    Republicans blocked that for no particular reason, other than cover up.
    What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

    This all looks like another Republican red herring, smoke and shadows, a first order misdirection.
    Accuse Obama of being unAmerican working for Muslim space aliens, and then move on.
    Bring your Tea Pot Dome, and see you at the cliff.

    November 18, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  20. cheshirecat9

    McCain and Graham need to change their diapers – WAAAAAH!

    November 18, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  21. neverforget

    I just wish they would've been as vigilant about asking questions about the Septmeber 11, 2001 attacks!!

    November 18, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  22. Dustin Goldsen

    Condoleezza Rice repeats CIA talking points about Weapons of Mass Destruction and that RESULTS in 4,000 Americans Killed in a war we never should have fought. Republicans support her for Secretary of State.

    Susan Rice repeats CIA talking points about an attack AFTER 4 American are killed and that RESULTS in an investigation. Republicans attack her nomination for Secretary of State before it is even made.

    Question is, what are the Republicans up to? Do they really need a scandal, any scandal, that bad to attack the President and reverse the 2012 election?

    November 18, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  23. skarphace

    "You have to have a really good reason why you don't give the American people the information you had,"

    Clearly, he Blunt has no idea what the word 'classified' means.

    November 18, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  24. Harrietta2012

    @#Dave: I am still waiting for the investigation and trial of members from the administration who ignored all warnings for 9/11, who started 2 unpaid wars that not only killed over 4000 american soldiers, but countless innocent civilians.
    There are people like Rumsfeld , Cheney. And GWBUSH who should be on trial for war crimes!

    November 18, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  25. AK_steve

    So Graham says, "I’m not going to give her a plus for passing on a narrative that was misleading to the American people" in reference to Rice getting nominated as Secretary of State. Very curious that the "other" Rice, who mislead us into to two costly wars, never got questioned about her statements.

    Then there are the four plus embassies that got bombed during the Bush administration and the up to 20 people who died in them. Not one investigation? Hmmm....

    Well GOP keep up the witch hunt and ignoring what Americans are most worried about (the economy). Oh and don't forget to blame it all on the President. You'll be sure to keep losing elections.

    November 18, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
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